Dr. Stephen J. Toope, President
Office of the President
University of British Columbia
6328 Memorial Road
Vancouver, BC Canada V6T 1Z2
September 13, 2013
Dear Dr. Toope,
I read with great disappointment and frustration a recent announcement from the University of British Columbia about “significant cost reductions” on student course packs as the result of “reliance upon fair dealing.”
Guidelines claiming 10% of a book, entire short stories, entire chapters, etc. as fair dealing are not supported by established law in Canada, nor are they likely ever to be. Canadian writers and publishers, through our common copyright collective, are right now involved in legal action aimed at confirming such extensive uses are unfair to the cultural creators on whom institutions like yours depend for so much quality educational content.
The Writers’ Union of Canada, along with many other cultural organizations, worked for decades to establish collective licensing architecture for literary works in Canada, one that provides broad and easy access to Canadian and international writing for universities like yours while fairly compensating the creators of that writing. We have since watched in utter dismay as our partners in education make choices that are damaging what we have built.
There is a terrible irony in a university like UBC, one with such an illustrious history of preparing creative writers for careers in the arts, claiming costs savings on the backs of Canada’s writers – a group who can ill-afford to lose any income sources. The Writers’ Union of Canada considers such unauthorized and uncompensated use of our members’ work to be expropriation of the property of some of Canada’s lowest paid professionals by some of Canada’s highest paid professionals. There is nothing fair about that scenario.
Writers are educators. With this letter I send you the results of our recent survey of writers on the issue of educational copying. You will see that the overwhelming majority of those surveyed consider the arbitrary definition of fair dealing on which your school now relies to be grossly unfair.
This letter is being made public through TWUC’s website. I look forward to your reply.
Dorris Heffron, Chair
cc: Louise Cowin, Vice President, Students
David Farrar, Provost and Vice President, Academic (UBC Vancouver)
Deborah Buszard, Principal and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (UBC Okanagan)
The UBC President has responded to TWUC's letter here.
TWUC then responded to UBC here.