Copyright Cases

As Part of Wrongful Dismissal Suit, Court Finds Copyright Infringement in Photograph Taken By Employee, Posted by Employer
Mejia v. LaSalle College International Vancouver Inc.
, 2014 BCSC 1559

This case concerned an instructor (Mejia) who was terminated by his employer (LaSalle)  for “professional unacceptable behaviour”. LaSalle claimed that it had cause to terminate Mejia’s employment for his conduct during a workshop he was teaching, when he allegedly enticed students to file a complaint with the Private Career Institutions Agency. Mejia sued for wrongful dismissal, defamation and copyright infringement.

Mejia’s claim was unsuccessful in respect of his claims for wrongful dismissal and defamation. With respect to the allegation of copyright infringement, Mejia claimed that one of his photographs was being used on LaSalle’s Facebook page in two different sections. Mejia claimed that it was taken during his personal time, with his camera, and belonged to him. LaSalle argued that the photograph was of a LaSalle student, wearing another student’s project, standing in front of a backdrop made by a LaSalle instructor, and located in a LaSalle classroom, which together suggest that the photograph was taken in the course of Mejia’s employment. Absent an agreement to the contrary, LaSalle argued that it held the copyright in the photograph.

The Court found that Mejia was hired as an instructor and not as a photographer. As such, the taking of photographs was not an activity that was generally considered to be within the duties of Mejia’s employment, and there was no contractual agreement that he do so. Though the Court found that the photograph was connected with the employer LaSalle by virtue of its subject and the location in which it was taken, it was not held as being connected with Mejia’s employment. Therefore, since the photograph was not made in the course of Mejia’s employment with LaSalle, the Court held that pursuant to section 13(1) of the Copyright Act (the “Act”), Mejia is the first owner of the copyright. As a result, the Court found that LaSalle infringed Mejia’s copyright and assessed damages at $500, the minimum amount under the Act, since Mejia did not establish or even argue that he had suffered any loss as a result of the infringement. The Court did note, however, that it was “mindful of the need to deter infringers”.

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Authors

Chantal Saunders 
CSaunders@blg.com
613.369.4783

Adrian J. Howard 
AJHoward@blg.com
613.787.3557

Beverley Moore 
BMoore@blg.com
613.369.4784

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