Federal Court Finds in Favour of Writers’ Rights

The Writers' Union of Canada
Press Release

Access Copyright Wins Against York University and Widely Used Copying Guidelines

July 13, 2017 — The Writers' Union of Canada (TWUC) is very pleased with the Federal Court decision released on July 12 in the matter of Access Copyright v. York University. The court’s decision fully supports Canadian writers’ right to be paid when their work is copied and used in Canadian classrooms and dismisses outright the education sector’s unilaterally defined “fair dealing” guidelines.

“This is the win we’ve been waiting for,” said TWUC Chair Marjorie Doyle. “For years now, Canadian writers have seen huge amounts of our valuable work copied for free by the educational sector. The court has recognized the value of our labour and ordered fair payment for that work.

Access Copyright (AC) is the licensing collective of Canada’s professional writers, publishers, and visual artists. The collective brought action against York University for unauthorized copying of work AC represents through both licenses and Copyright Board tariffs. As part of its defence, York asked the court for affirmation of its fair dealing guidelines, which claim large portions of published work for free and unlicensed copying.

The court ordered York University to pay royalties specified by the existing tariff and dismissed the claim of fair dealing. The decision effectively declares the widespread educational copying guidelines to be illegitimate.

“I believe all Canadian school boards, colleges, and universities have some serious rethinking to do,” added TWUC Executive Director John Degen. “They have been sold a radical theory that collective licensing doesn’t apply to them. The court has now declared that theory invalid. We look forward to rebuilding and strengthening our traditional partnership with education.”

Since the 2012 changes to the Copyright Act, Canada’s writers and publishers have suffered enormous losses of income resulting from educational claims of fair dealing. The full damage to both culture and education has yet to be measured.

“Now we need the federal government to follow the court’s example,” insisted Doyle, “and eliminate the confusion within the Copyright Act. It was confounding legislation that brought us all to court in the first place. The law must be fixed.”

TWUC thanks Access Copyright and all industry partners in this action for their dedication to the rights of professional creators.

The Writers’ Union of Canada is our country’s national organization representing more than 2,000 professional authors of books. The Union is dedicated to fostering writing in Canada, and promoting the rights, freedoms, and economic well-being of all writers.  

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