Publication Year


ISBN: 9781552213537-25

Categories: ,

Copyright as Barrier to Creativity

The Case of User-Generated Content

From: Intellectual Property for the 21st Century


The chapter begins with a definitional overview of user-generated content (UGC) as a growing form of cultural and communicative activity in the digital environment. Its potential economic and cultural value are considered, as well as factors which act as barriers to its further development and distribution. It is argued that overly restrictive copyright policies and the threat of infringement liability unduly constrain the full potential of this emerging practice.

A comparative analysis of UGC’s treatment as an exception or limitation to infringement in Canada, the United States, and other jurisdictions is undertaken, and the recently enacted UGC amendment to the Canadian Copyright Act is evaluated and critiqued. It is argued that UGC can best flourish as part of a broad fair-dealing right where its transformative nature is a central criterion.

User-generated content as a category of creative activity remains under-theorized, especially with respect to the relationship between the labour of individual creators in the networked environment and copyright policy. This chapter explores how changes in the digital environment necessitate the rethinking of certain aspects of copyright law in order to avoid undue barriers to the further development of digital content.



Samuel Trosow

Samuel Trosow is an Associate Professor at Western University with a joint appointment in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies (FIMS) and the Faculty of Law. Prior to joining the UWO Faculty, he was a law li-brarian at University of California Berkeley’s Boalt Hall Law School, and his doctorate at UCLA in Library Science focused on information policy issues. Professor Trosow is currently a Principal Network Investigator and Theme Leader in the Graphics, Animation and New Media (GRAND) NCE. He is the co-author of Canadian Copyright: A Citizen’s Guide (with Laura Murray, Between the Lines, 2007), and maintains a blog at He is currently a member of the Librarians Committee of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) and is a frequent speaker on copyright and other information policy issues.