In Keatley Surveying v Teranet, 2016 ONSC 1717, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice (the Court) granted a motion for summary judgement dismissing a class action against Teranet Inc. (Teranet), which is the organization responsible for managing Ontario’s land registry system. The issue addressed in the class action was whether Teranet’s copying and selling of survey documents infringed the copyright of surveyors who created and registered such documents within the land registry system. The Plaintiff, Keatley Surveying Ltd., brought the class action on behalf of 350 land surveyors in Ontario.
The Registry Act and the Land Titles Act provide that every registered instrument and deposited document or registered plan is “the property of the Crown.” Although physical ownership of and copyright in documents are separate rights, the Court found that the statutory provisions prescribing a fee for copies of survey documents was a strong indicator that the Crown holds copyright in the documents registered and deposited in the land registry system.
The Court further held that the determinative issue was whether copyright in the documents at issue belong to the Province of Ontario pursuant to Section 12 of the Copyright Act. Section 12 provides that copyright in a work subsists with the Crown, for a specified term, where works are prepared or published by or under the direction or control of the Crown.
The Court found that once the survey documents were registered within the land registry system, the ownership of the property in those documents (including copyright) was transferred to the province. Therefore, the province published the documents while they were “under its control”. The Court also opined that Section 12 of the Copyright Act serves primarily to determine the term of copyright, and exists concurrently with the transfer of copyright under the Registry Act.
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