On September 26, 2019, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) released its decision in Keatley Surveying Ltd v Teranet Inc, 2019 SCC 43, holding that plans of survey are published under the direction or control of the Crown, and so, pursuant to section 12 of the Copyright Act, RSC, 1985, c C-42 (the Act), copyright inures to the province as a result of the automatic transfer of copyright to the Crown. This decision represents the first time that the SCC has examined the scope and application of Crown copyright under section 12 of the Act.

Keatley Surveying Ltd (Keatley) brought a class proceeding against the Crown behalf of land surveyors whose land surveys were scanned and copied into Teranet’s online digital database. The surveyors alleged that Teranet’s actions constituted copyright infringement.  The Ontario Superior Court (ONSC) and the Ontario Court of Appeal (ONCA) disagreed by finding that copyright in the plans of survey was either transferred or vested to the Crown. The ONSC and ONSC decisions were previously reported by the E-TIPS® Newsletter here and here. Keatley appealed the ONCA decision to the SCC. 

The SCC focused on whether copyright in the plans of survey belongs to the Province of Ontario, pursuant to section 12 of the Act. Section 12 provides that copyright will be held by the Crown if a work is “prepared or published by or under the direction or control” of the Crown. The SCC found that these requirements were readily met. According to the SCC, “[w]hen either the Crown or Teranet publishes the registered or deposited plans of survey, copyright vests in the Crown because the Crown exercises direction or control over the publication process[.]”

Summary By: Alessia Monastero


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