Are Your Legal Textbooks Legal?

Image: Hariadhi

Image: Hariadhi

It’s textbook buy-and-sell time again, with many students seeking to cut corners with questionable course materials that may be cheap for a reason — they break copyright laws.

Jessica Lepore’s article for Canadian Press (CP) found that students are not as concerned about the legal and moral consequences of illegally obtained books, as they are about the cost of legitimate purchases.

“Textbooks are insanely expensive, and I feel like the textbook companies are ripping us off,” one Guelph university student told CP. Books that are frequently updated, making their resale value drop, also plays a role in the growing problem.

Downloading texts and buying photocopies of books contravenes copyright laws in Canada.

Michael Harrison, the vice-president of University of Toronto Press Publishing, told CP that in-depth textbooks, that meet the demands of instructors and authors, are expensive to produce and require updating.

Illegally downloading textbooks, making or buying copies in PDF, photocopy or electronic form are copyright infringements under the Copyright Act, RSC 1985, c C-42.

In particular, under the Act:

27. (1) It is an infringement of copyright for any person to do, without the consent of the owner of the copyright, anything that by this Act only the owner of the copyright has the right to do.

(2) It is an infringement of copyright for any person to

    (a) sell or rent out,

    (b) distribute to such an extent as to affect prejudicially the owner of the copyright,

    (c) by way of trade distribute, expose or offer for sale or rental, or exhibit in public,

    (d) possess for the purpose of doing anything referred to in paragraphs (a) to (c), or

    (e) import into Canada for the purpose of doing anything referred to in paragraphs (a) to (c),

a copy of a work, sound recording or fixation of a performer’s performance or of a communication signal that the person knows or should have known infringes copyright or would infringe copyright if it had been made in Canada by the person who made it.


34. (1) Where copyright has been infringed, the owner of the copyright is, subject to this Act, entitled to all remedies by way of injunction, damages, accounts, delivery up and otherwise that are or may be conferred by law for the infringement of a right.

Related Cases:

Unauthorized copying and selling of textbooks leads to hefty fines, punitive damages and other penalties, for a Montreal business. The long-term saga:
Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency v. U-Compute, 2005 FC 1644 (CanLII)

Lari v. Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency, 2007 FCA 127 (CanLII)

Legal publishers bring copyright infringement actions against the Law Society of Upper Canada:
CCH Canadian Ltd. v. Law Society of Upper Canada, 2004 SCC 13, [2004] 1 SCR 339

“A license that is a mere permission to do a certain thing, as opposed to a license that gives an ownership interest, need not be in writing.”
Ritchie v. Sawmill Creek Golf & Country Club Ltd., 2004 CanLII 21366 (ON SCDC)

One comment

  1. This practice is quite common in University, I do not know if it as rampant in paralegal programs; but as i peek over my monitor, I still blow a gasket when I consider how much I paid and how poorly some were written.

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