Canada: Case Comment: Arbitration of Copyright Disputes in light of the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in LES ÉDITIONS CHOUETTE (1987) INC., ET AL. V. DESPUTEAUX

Last Updated: May 11 2004
Article by Colm Brannigan

Recent Canadian case law clearly shows that courts in Canada are increasingly showing a tendency towards enforcement of arbitral agreements and limiting the scope of judicial review over arbitral awards. Although arbitration is often used in labour, construction and insurance matters, it has not been in copyright cases. There is no legislation in Canada specifically prohibiting arbitration in intellectual property matters, but some Canadian courts have referred to a public policy or interest doctrine, that the courts, not private parties behind closed doors, should resolve issues, which affect the interests of the public. The Supreme Court of Canada in Chouette seems to have rejected this argument in favour of allowing private alternative dispute resolution.

The facts of Chouette are basically that the parties formed a partnership, which resulted in the Caillou series of books for children. Between 1989 and 1995, a number of contracts were entered into including a 1993 licensing agreement. In 1996, there were difficulties in respect of the interpretation and application of the licence contract, and the plaintiff brought a motion to secure recognition of its reproduction rights. In response, a motion was brought to have the matter referred to an arbitrator. The Superior Court in Quebec, finding that the contract itself was not in issue, and no allegations regarding its validity raised, referred the matter to arbitration.

The arbitrator decided that his mandate included interpreting all the contracts and the rider. In the arbitrator's view, Caillou was a work of joint authorship. With respect to the licence and the rider, the arbitrator concluded that the plaintiff held the reproduction rights and that it alone was authorized to use Caillou in any form and on any medium, provided that a court agreed that the contracts were valid.

The Superior Court dismissed a motion for annulment of the arbitrator’s award based on the assertion that the arbitrator decided on an issue that was not before him. The Court of Appeal in Quebec reversed that judgment and set aside the award stating that the Copyright Act does not allow for arbitration and by deciding on the legal status of the parties towards Caillou, a work protected by the Copyright Act, the arbitrator exceeded his jurisdiction. The Court of Appeal also concluded that:

The right precisely to credit for paternity of a work, like the right to respect for one's name, gives a purely "moral" connotation to the dignity and honour of the creator of the work. From these standpoints, the question of the paternity of copyright is not a matter for arbitration.

On appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada allowed the appeal and restored the arbitrator’s decision. The Supreme Court held that the arbitrator acted in accordance with his terms of reference and made no error such as would permit annulment of the arbitration award. Furthermore, the Copyright Act does not prohibit an arbitrator from deciding issues pertaining to copyright. Since The Copyright Act protects the economic aspect of copyright, this is not part of the legal capacity referred to in the Civil Code.

Mr. Justice LeBel at paragraph 54 of the Supreme Court’s decision wrote that:

"Public order arises primarily when the validity of an arbitration award must be determined. The limits of that concept's role must be defined correctly, however. First, as we have seen, arbitrators are frequently required to consider questions and statutory provisions that relate to public order in order to resolve the dispute that is before them. Mere consideration of those matters does not mean that the decision may be annulled. ...the award as a whole be examined, to determine the nature of the result. The court must determine whether the decision itself, in its disposition of the case, violates statutory provisions or principles that are matters of public order... An error in interpreting a mandatory statutory provision would not provide a basis for annulling the award as a violation of public order, unless the outcome of the arbitration was in conflict with the relevant fundamental principles of public order. That approach ... corresponds to the approach taken in the law of a number of states where arbitration is governed by legal rules analogous to those now found in Quebec law. The courts in those countries have limited the consideration of substantive public order to reviewing the outcome of the award as it relates to public order...In applying a concept as flexible and changeable as public order, these fundamental principles must be adhered to in determining the validity of an arbitration award."

This important decision stands for the principles that:

  1. Parties can identify the disputes that they wish to have subject to arbitration.
  2. Issues set out within the arbitration agreement, and all issues closely connected with the agreement, are within the arbitrator's mandate.
  3. Of greatest potential impact for practitioners in this field:

  4. The Copyright Act does not prohibit arbitrators from ruling on questions of copyright.

This decision reaffirms the growing judicial acknowledgment of the important role of arbitrators in the resolution of copyright and other intellectual property matters. Since arbitrators can, by agreement of the parties, award remedies similar to those usually awarded by the courts, such as damages and, injunctions, usually in far more speedy fashion than the courts, practitioners should consider the addition of arbitration provisions in their agreements and contracts involving copyright matters.


1. [2003] 1 S.C.R. 178. Available at

2. [2001] R.J.Q. 945

3. Ibid at paragraphs. 40 and 44.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.