Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Curious Case of the Various Robinsons (Crusoe, Curiosité, et Sucroë)

The Supreme Court of Canada has just granted leave to appeal in three related copyright cases involving Cinar, Ronald Weinberg, the Estate of Micheline Charest (Weinberg's late wife), Claude Robinson, BBC et al.

It’s about how a concept for Robinson Curiosité became a series entitled Robinson Sucroë.

The main judgment below appears to be  France Animation, s.a. c. Robinson, 2011 QCCA1361 (CanLII) 

Here’s the Supreme Court of Canada “summary”, which seems to be similar in all three cases 34466, 34467, and 34468.
Case summaries are prepared by the Office of the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Canada (Law Branch) for information purposes only.
Intellectual property – Copyright Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. C 42 – Infringement – Evidence – Steps and tests for determining whether substantial part of work reproduced within meaning of ss. 2 and 3 of Copyright Act – Admissibility of expert’s testimony concerning reproduction of substantial part of work within meaning of ss. 2 and 3 of Copyright Act.

In 1982, Claude Robinson, an artist, drew the first sketches of the characters for a proposed children’s television services to be called Robinson Curiosity. A few years later, in 1985, the Copyright Office issued a certificate of registration for Robinson Curiosity listing Mr. Robinson as the author of the work and Les Productions Nilem inc. (“Nilem”), a corporation of which he was the sole shareholder, as the owner of the work.

Starting in 1985, Mr. Robinson and Nilem stepped up their efforts for the promotion and production of Robinson Curiosity, including with Cinar Corporation/Cinar Films Inc., but those efforts were unsuccessful for nearly 10 years. In September 1995, however, the first episode of Robinson Sucroe, a work produced by Cinar Corporation/Cinar Films Inc., France Animation S.A. and Ravensburger Film + TV GmbH, was broadcast in Quebec.

Since Mr. Robinson and Nilem found similarities between their work, Robinson Curiosity, and the work produced as Robinson Sucroe, they brought an infringement action in the Quebec Superior Court, which allowed the action in part. On appeal, the Quebec Court of Appeal upheld in part the Superior Court’s findings concerning the infringers but reduced several aspects of the monetary award made at trial, mainly on the basis of revised calculations of the profits and punitive damages.

The case got a lot of attention in Quebec and has some very colourful personalities and prominent counsel involved.

For those of us of a certain age, there's always the original original by Daniel Defoe  Robinson Crusoe from 1719:
File:Robinson Cruose 1719 1st edition.jpg

Defoe's work gets mentioned in the judgments below.

In any event, contrary to the expectations of some pundits, the Supreme Court of Canada has apparently not yet lost its appetite for copyright cases. 

Meanwhile, suspense builds on the outcome of the "pentalogy" from December 6 and 7, 2011, not to mention Cogeco et al v. Bell et al heard on April 17, 2012 regarding "value for signal" and the interplay between the Broadcasting and Copyright Acts.


No comments:

Post a Comment