If Canadian copyright law were cheese, it would be Gruyère. With big, big holes.
In 2012, Stephen Harper’s federal government added exceptions to the Copyright Act, opening the door to massive exploitation of Quebec and Canadian works without fair remuneration. As these exceptions are ill-defined, educational institutions do not hesitate to interpret them abusively to avoid paying copyright owners the right amount.
For example, any organization that claims to offer any kind of training can take advantage of the fuzzy “education” exception. As a result, across Canada, almost all institutions have stopped paying authors and publishers for the 600 million pages copied annually. Only Quebec is resisting this withdrawal from the education community, but the situation could deteriorate if the the status quo persists.
Almost ten years of declining income for those who, at the base, produce the works! And when rights holders feel they have been wronged, they must ask the courts to rule. The Law amended in 2012 spawned a series of judicial sagas.
Today, players in the book industry can no longer document the disastrous effects of the 2012 changes and hammer home the importance of reviewing this law. But this unfortunately remains absent from the discourse of leaders when it comes to culture.
The book industry had warmly welcomed the Changing Paradigms report, tabled in the House of Commons in 2019, which recognized that the Copyright Act should be corrected in order to limit the application of many exceptions. Important recommendations have been made in this direction. In the 2019 election, all federal parties hinted that they would fix the Copyright Act.
Necessary legal framework
While the post-pandemic economic revival of the cultural sector is on everyone’s lips, it is imperative that the Canadian government, which will be elected on September 20, recognizes that the cultural sector needs a new legal framework, stability and essential investments. At the creation.
Why is the copyright issue not getting an important place in the promises of all parties? Shouldn’t offering fair remuneration to the creators and artisans who allow our country to shine here and internationally be a priority?
The Supreme Court last summer denied York University’s request to endorse its very broad interpretation of fair dealing. Prior to that, the Federal Court decried the University’s copyright policy. But the Supreme Court sent the ball back to Ottawa. The political parties must assume their responsibilities in the next term.
We urge the government elected on September 20 to show political courage in choosing to protect authors and publishers. The vitality, diversity and richness of Canadian culture are at stake.
* Signed this text: Christian Laforce, Managing Director of Copibec, Member Associations: Union of Quebec Writers and Writers (UNEQ), National Association of Book Editors (ANEL), Rassemblement des artistes en arts visuels du Quebec (RAAV), Association independent journalists from Quebec (AJIQ), Professional Federation of Quebec Journalists (FPJQ), Society for the Development of Quebec Cultural Periodicals (SODEP), Quebec Hebdos, Quebec daily newspapers