In Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association v. Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN), the Federal Court of Appeal upheld a decision of the Copyright Board of Canada that Internet transmissions of musical ringtones by wireless telephone and other Internet ringtone suppliers constitute "communications of musical works to the public" within the meaning of section 3(1)(f) of the Copyright Act.

Wireless carriers argued that such transmissions are not "communications" within the meaning of the Act and that, in any event, they are point-to-point transmissions between the supplier and its individual subscribers and therefore not "to the public." The Court disagreed. First, the Court held that "communication" connotes the passing of information from one person to another, and that a musical ringtone is information in the form of a digital audio file that is capable of being communicated. Second, the Court held that the transmission is a communication to the public because the transmission is made available to a sufficiently large and diverse group of people.

This is a significant win for SOCAN and for other copyright owners whose works are transmitted on the Internet. The Court's decision clears the way for SOCAN and other rightsholders to continue with the licensing of music Web sites offering downloading services.

For the full text of the decision see:

http://decisions.fca-caf.gc.ca/en/2008/2008fca6/2008fca6.html