Copyright Agency Gutted by Canada’s Ineffective Copyright Laws

The Writers' Union of Canada
Press Release

Writers Shut Out of Collective Action by Government’s Failure to Act

The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) is deeply concerned by the news that Canada’s Copyright Licensing Agency, Access Copyright, will be reducing staff and services over the coming months.

After years of warning lawmakers that Canada’s broken copyright marketplace was damaging our culture, Canada’s writers and publishers are now expected to carry on without a strong or well-resourced collective representing our rights in the marketplace and courts. Citing a 92% decline in educational revenues, Access Copyright announced this week their “Board of Directors has made the difficult decision to initiate a significant downsizing and restructuring of the organization due to the federal government’s decade-long inaction in fixing Canada’s publishing marketplace.

“This development is intolerable,” declared novelist Danny Ramadan, Chair of The Writers’ Union of Canada. “The works of Canadian writers are now copied without permission or licence as a matter of educational policy, and we are expected to somehow protect that work without a functional industry champion. How does the government expect us to do our jobs — to create Canadian stories, and export Canadian culture — without the same basic rights as authors in other countries?”

Over a decade of unlicensed and uncompensated copying in schools, colleges, and universities has resulted in upwards of $200 million in lost revenues for writers and publishers in this country. Contrary to claims from the educational sector, the copying of published work has neither decreased nor shifted to subscription models or legal access under fair dealing. The illicit nature and huge scope of this copying was proven in Federal Court, and that finding stands to this day.

“The government’s incessant delay on repair of the Copyright Act sends a signal that it’s okay to break the law; it’s fine to rip off artists,” added Ramadan. “Canadian students are being taught if they want creative work, they should just copy it. I can’t believe this is the outcome Parliament wants — struggling artists forced to subsidize public education with free labour.”

TWUC continues to bring writers’ concerns to the Ministers of Canadian Heritage and Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and calls for immediate action on their longstanding promises to repair the educational market.

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The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) is the national organization of professionally published writers. TWUC was founded in 1973 to work with governments, publishers, booksellers, and readers to improve the conditions of Canadian writers. Now over 2,600 members strong, TWUC advocates on behalf of writers’ collective interests, and delivers value to members through advocacy, community, and information. TWUC believes in a thriving, diverse Canadian culture that values and supports writers.

For additional information:
John Degen, Chief Executive Officer
The Writers’ Union of Canada

DATE: July 13, 2023