Canadian Lawmakers Recommend Sweeping Progressive Improvements to Copyright Law

The Writers' Union of Canada
Press Release

The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage yesterday released its long-awaited report on artist remuneration, as part of Parliament’s Statutory Review of the Copyright Act. Titled Shifting Paradigms, the report makes twenty-two key recommendations focused on strengthening the rights of artists to control and earn from their work in the digital age.

The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) applauds the report and its recommendations, which include several changes suggested by the Union in its own 2018 testimony before Parliament. Since 2012, Canada’s authors have suffered a disastrous income collapse resulting from uncompensated copying of published work by the educational sector. With its industry partners, TWUC asked for better definition of the educational market. The Heritage report delivers on that request, with a series of recommendations aimed directly at the problem:

18. That the Government of Canada amend the Act to clarify that fair dealing should not apply to educational institutions when the work is commercially available.

19. That the Government of Canada promote a return to licensing through collective societies.

21. That the Government of Canada harmonize remedies for collective societies under the Copyright Act.

“The Heritage Committee really heard Canada’s professional creators,” said author and TWUC Chair Eric Enno Tamm. Tamm’s own Heritage Committee testimony ended with strong words that clearly informed the Committee recommendations:

“Fair dealing needs to be fair, not free, for educators, and we need a Copyright Board that’s more than a paper tiger. Significant statutory damages will give the Copyright Board some teeth in dealing with those who don’t pay their tariffs. If we value culture, then we must value the work of those who produce it.”

“It’s less than a day old, and this report is already making waves in the global creative community,” said John Degen, TWUC’s Executive Director and Chair of the International Authors Forum. “I’ve heard from colleagues as far away as New Zealand and South Africa, who will now be approaching their own lawmakers with this Canadian report in hand. It’s authoritative because it comes from a balanced, all-party committee that took its time, and responsibly tested the questions put to it. They took testimony from all players in the copyright debate, and asked a lot of hard questions of everyone.”

“Many TWUC members sent in submissions and provided testimony, as did our publishing colleagues and Access Copyright,” continued Tamm. “We want to thank everyone who helped to advance this conversation. And, especially, we would like to thank the Heritage Committee Chair, MP Julie Dabrusin (L), and Vice-Chair MPs Pierre Nantel (NDP) and the Honourable Steven Blaney (C) for their meticulous work on this study. That a multi-party study concludes so strongly in favour of artists and professional creators is extremely encouraging.”

The Heritage Committee report is one of two expected in Parliament during the Statutory Review of the Copyright Act. The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology is expected to deliver its own recommendations soon, informed by the Heritage report and by broad sectoral testimony.

The Writers’ Union of Canada is our country’s national organization representing professional authors of books. Founded in 1973, the Union is dedicated to fostering writing in Canada and promoting the rights, freedoms, and economic well-being of all writers.  

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For additional information
John Degen, Executive Director
The Writers’ Union of Canada
416.703.8982 ext. 221

DATE: May 16, 2019