Monthly Archives: December 2015

Sara Ross

Toronto’s Music Strategy Survey


The City of Toronto has released a survey seeking comment on the work of the Toronto Music Advisory Council, specifically, its proposed Music Strategy. The Council has been given the task of developing a plan to support Toronto as a “music city”, and the survey/comment period will remain open until December 31st, 2015. Your comments will be used to help shape the future of arts and culture in Toronto, as the city has placed a significant amount of support behind the project, included mayoral visits to other metropolitan areas known for their music cultures, such as Austin, Texas.

To fill out the survey and read the background paper, you can visit the Music Toronto website here.

Sara Ross

Happy Birthday to You! and the Accidental Copyright Case

Birthday candles

Photo By Joey Gannon (Source: Wikimedia)

You can thank a copyright law professor at George Washington University the next time you hear a birthday song being sung to the table beside you at a restaurant, or in a movie, and it sounds much more like the one you sing at home. Robert Brauneis published a paper in the Journal of the Copyright Society of the U.S.A. back in 2009 entitled “Copyright and the World’s Most Popular Song”, which outlined a rationale for why Warner/Chappell may not have had the copyright to the Happy Birthday song that it claimed to have. The paper, first uploaded to SSRN in 2006, went relatively unnoticed for years until documentarian Jennifer Nelson began researching a film on the history of the song Happy Birthday to You!, and stumbled upon the Brauneis paper during her research. Nelson claims that up until this point, the project was merely to create a documentary on the song. She did not intend to become involved in taking down one of the most notorious copyright claims in US history. As for Brauneis, neither did he. A true nexus of unintended consequences.

The case is of special interest this week as Nelson’s 2013 class action lawsuit against Warner/Chappell over the fees paid to it through the years for the song’s use was settled on December 8th, vacating the trial over the fees that was set to begin today.

You can read Brauneis’ paper at its SSRN link here:

Sara Ross

Call for Papers: Intellectual Property and Resistance


The International Society for the History and Theory of Intellectual Property has announced the call for papers for its 8th annual workshop. The theme for the event this year will be “Intellectual Property and Resistance”, to be held between July 6th and July 8th, 2016 at the University of Glasgow. A full paper from accepted scholars will be due by June 15th, and the deadline for applications is January 15th. Applications must contain a 300 word abstract, a one paragraph biography, and a two page CV. The description of the event includes the following:

Taking the theme of ‘resistance’ as its starting point, we intend the 8th Annual Workshop to be a further occasion for the full debate of the theory and history of intellectual property! We invite abstracts for papers, exploring the theme of resistance in the broadest sense, in relation to any aspect of the history or theory of intellectual property law. We seek a broad representation of international scholars as well as scholars from across the disciplines.

To read more about the conference or to apply, you can visit their website here:

Sara Ross

Shanghai Fines Hotels Over Disney Trademark Infringement

Shanghai Commission logo

Chinese authorities have taken a step towards protecting the intellectual property of Disney Corp., which is in the process of establishing new Disney properties on the Chinese mainland over the coming years. As a part of the development process, China has pledged to pursue copyright and trademark infringement cases where Disney is concerned. This month, a fine of 100,000 yuan was levied by the Shanghai Municipal Administration for Industry and Commerce against the Shenzhen Vienna Hotels Group for using the word “Disney” in its marketing literature for five hotels located near the soon-to-be built Disney theme park in Shanghai. It should be mentioned, however, that according to Reuters, the fines will only total just over $3000 USD per hotel. It’s a start, but likely not enough to dissuade future businesses from trying similar tactics in using the Disney name to enhance their own bottom lines.

Sara Ross

Donair the Official Food of Halifax


King of Donairs – The Birthplace of the Donair

As if there was any doubt, Halifax has officially declared the donair to be its official food. The move was originated by Councillor Linda Mosher, who said she did so because she noticed that not only was the donair front-and-centre in much of Halifax’s international press coverage, but that earlier in 2015 Edmonton’s City Council had been looking to itself declare an official food, and had mistakenly believed that they could not use the donair, because Halifax had already declared the donair for itself. Mosher also added that the donair was more unique to Halifax in the context of the Maritime region than lobster or other seafood, which is ubiquitous throughout the area. The official motion to consider the Councillor’s request was issued on November 20th, and was debated by the Halifax City Council on December 8th.

The Council voted 8-7 to approve the measure, thus beating the City of Edmonton to the punch, and making the donair its official food. Though the Council’s meeting minutes have yet to be updated, you can view the entire debate (which gets rather heated) here. As for Edmonton? Last week a local activist took to pushing the green onion cake as the city’s official treat, renewing a movement that has been in place since 2013. Taking the donair out of the running may just be what these savoury pastry advocates need to get past the finish line!

Sara Ross

Canadian Broadcasting Corp. v. SODRAC 2003 Inc.

SCC logo

Supreme Court of Canada

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled on the case Canadian Broadcasting Corp v SODRAC 2003 Inc, on appeal from the Federal Court of Appeal, with Justices Abella and Karakatsanis dissenting. The judgment reads: “The appeal should be allowed; the 2008‑2012 licence and the interim licence should both be set aside and the decisions of the Copyright Board should be remitted to the Board for reconsideration.” The article also cites Osgoode Professor Carys Craig’s chapter “Technological Neutrality: (Pre)Serving the Purposes of Copyright Law” in the Michael Geist compendium The Copyright Pentalogy: How the Supreme Court of Canada Shook the Foundations of Canadian Copyright Law, specifically, “where there is no clear and pre-existing functional equivalent, courts should avoid emphasizing the details of particular technological systems and instead interpret copyright’s core concepts in a manner applicable across technologies.”

To read more about this latest precedent in Canadian copyright law, you can view the full judgment here:

Sara Ross

Call For Papers – Critical Legal Research Laboratory conference

Sherbrooke logo

The Critical Legal Research Laboratory of L’Université de Sherbrooke has announced its call for papers for the “Down to Earth: Critical Legal Approaches and the Environment” conference, held over June 13th to 14th, 2016. Submissions are due January 4th, 2016, and must contain a 350 word abstract and short biography. Some travel grants are available for accepted presenters. The call for papers includes the following:

This event is an opportunity to reflect upon two themes that are rarely reunited in such settings: critical legal approaches as they relate to the environment. Even though the symposium is internationally oriented, innovative and critical approaches to international law and national law are welcome … This symposium aims to bridge the gap between theory and practice in order to explore alternative and concrete approaches to the current conception of nature within law, for example within aboriginal communities. Even if this event’s aim is to create a critical theoretical discussion, participants are asked to present their thoughts in an accessible manner, in order to foster a discussion climate truly open to all.

To read more about the conference or to apply, you can visit their website here:

Sara Ross

Call For Papers: Memorial University of Newfoundland Conference on Petrocultures


The call for papers for “Petrocultures 2016: The Offshore” has been released. The conference will be held on the Memorial University of Newfoundland campus between August 31st and September 3rd, 2016. Submissions must include a 200 word paper description and a 100 word bio, due by January 5th, 2016, and are welcome from scholars, industry professionals, artists, advocates, and others. A description of the conference includes the following:

Despite the fact our economies and lifestyles depend so heavily on the oil industry, much of the work and infrastructure associated with it, to say nothing of the deposits themselves, are situated out of plain sight. This relative invisibility makes the cultural imaginaries of oil, particularly deepwater offshore oil, highly powerful. Petrocultures 2016 will provide an important forum for examining such figurations, including how they relate to framings of alternative forms of energy, such as wind and tidal power.

To read more about the conference or to apply you can visit their website here:

Sara Ross

Emily Carr University Moving

Emily Carr logo

As a part of the City of Vancouver’s development efforts, the campus for Emily Carr University of Art + Design is leaving its campus on Granville Island for a new building in the False Creek Flats neighbourhood of Vancouver in 2017. The plan for the old campus is to convert it into a mixed-use artist building for studios and other work spaces. The move has been in the works since 2013, when then BC Premier Christy Clark announced the Province’s investment in the new campus. The shift between neighbourhoods has raised several questions surrounding the cultural direction of each, now forced to go through the major transition of transplanting a major institution of higher learning at the behest of the Provincial Government. The new campus is set for completion in 2016, and students are expected to transfer entirely to the new building by Fall 2017. How it affects the neighbourhood businesses and residents remains to be seen, but the move is sure to cause a great deal of change in both areas.



Sara Ross

New Funding Model for Canada Council for the Arts

CCA logo

The Canada Council for the Arts has announced a brand new funding model that it will use for its grants starting in 2017. The Council has long been due for an overhaul of how it awards its grants, a process that had previously put a great deal of emphasis on prior success as an artist rather than the quality of the artist’s work. Grants were awarded to specific arts (fine arts, writing, dance, etc), and competitions were held among artists within their own fields. The new program will offer grants based upon meta-projects drawn from six different national arts objectives. The statement they have released discussing the changes includes the following:

Replacing a substantial number of discipline-specific, specialized programs with six broad programs allows us to focus on the pillars of artistic research, creation, production and dissemination across fields of artistic practice.  The quality of your artistic work, and the impact of that work in relation to program objectives, will be the basis for funding decisions. The Canada Council will continue to rely on peer assessment and value the knowledge and expertise of its staff to make the best funding decisions in all circumstances.

Our new programs are designed to clarify why Council provides public support to artists and organizations, and to demonstrate the short term and longer term results of our investments.

We want to more directly enable artists and arts organizations to create excellence and maximize artistic and other impacts for their audiences in a changing artistic ecosystem and in an ever-changing society. These new programs are designed to address current realities; they nurture skills, build capacity and will proactively help artists and organizations to realize their visions.

In the new paradigm, writers and dancers will compete against each other for grants, rather than in separate categories. One significant improvement is the removal of caps from the amount of grants that artists can receive correlated to their professional experience. Previously, new artists were disallowed from receiving the grant amounts that late career artists could receive, depending on the length of their resumes. Another improvement comes in the eligibility protocols, which have removed firm definitions as to what makes a “professional artist”; previous guidelines had very rigid definitions for artists to live up to (requiring, for example, X amount of publications or performances within a set number of years for someone to be eligible for a grant).

To read more about the new model, you can visit their website here: