IAF Calls on Canada to Protect Its Cultural Workers by Repairing Copyright

Luke AlcottCanada, Copyright law, News

At its annual general meeting in London, the International Authors Forum passed a special resolution calling upon the Canadian government to immediately repair its copyright legislation, after earlier amendments resulted in unsustainable economic losses to Canada’s authors and publishers.

Canada has recently completed a comprehensive public consultation on cultural policy, legislation and regulation. In recent statements to the press, Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Honourable Mélanie Joly said that through the consultation her Ministry received the message that they “should address the issue of fairness to creators when it comes to how they can make a living in this digital age.”

Since 2012, Canada’s writers and publishers have seen educational copyright agreements collapse, resulting in an annual loss of tens of millions of dollars. Canadian schools, colleges and universities, insisting they had been given broad permission to copy without permission or compensation because of a one-word expansion of Canada’s fair dealing provision, have in large part refused to sign new collective licensing agreements. Ongoing use of previously licensed material has resulted in a number of costly court challenges that threaten to go on for years.

“Author incomes in Canada are in a steep dive,” said IAF Chair, John Degen, “and the situation is unsustainable. Canada cannot expect teachable, high-quality Canadian content in our schools, if education is not willing to pay for that work.”

Outside of a copyright licensing context, post-secondary institutions in Canada appear to be copying more and more into print and digital course packs, largely without the permission of the author, or any compensation to either author or publisher. The educational sector has drawn up its own unilaterally-defined, legally-unproven fair dealing guidelines.

“Schools claim their guidelines provide clarity and promote respect for copyright,” added Degen, “but we’ve found the exact opposite. The Writers’ Union of Canada recently took action to stop the scanning and distribution of entire books on one university campus. Recently published, in-copyright books that were otherwise available for purchase were being scanned and uploaded in full to a public website, by scholars insisting they had the right to do so. They did not. As far as I can tell, the guidelines promoted by education are fostering just this kind of confusion, and creating a free-for-all of copying.”

The International Authors Forum supports a balance between user access and creator reward. Respecting this balance drives creation and creates opportunities for students to access high-quality work. Without creator reward in the current context, Canadian copyright has fallen out of balance.

For more information about Canadian copyright concerns, please visit Focus on Creators.