The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) welcomes the 2021 Federal Budget, and notes with appreciation both targeted measures for the books sector in Canada and the extension of recovery programs that have helped Canada’s cultural workers stay afloat during the pandemic. Unfortunately, the budget makes no mention of the ongoing financial disaster that is uncompensated educational copying, a situation that requires immediate Parliamentary intervention.
COPYRIGHT REPAIR MISSING
“It’s extremely disappointing that copyright was not addressed,” noted TWUC Chair Anita Daher, “because it’s an economic crisis. Government had a chance to balance a decade of economic loss to writing and publishing through simple marketplace repair that would not have added to the deficit at all. It’s a real missed opportunity.”
The question of ongoing uncompensated educational copying is central to an upcoming Supreme Court of Canada hearing, but TWUC has long maintained that it is Parliament’s responsibility to fix this problem, not the court’s. Budget 2021 addresses the importance of intellectual property and the knowledge economy with several small measures, but without copyright repair Canada’s cultural workers cannot fully take part.
RECOVERY FUND & PLR
The announcement of a welcome $300 million Recovery Fund to be administered by Canadian Heritage did not include any mention of the writing sector. TWUC is grateful for the focus on cultural work, and awaits the announcement of detailed allocations.
“We’ll be watching the allocation of those monies very closely,” said TWUC Executive Director John Degen, “and would very much appreciate a small portion of them directed to the Public Lending Right program. PLR is a vital support for the sector, but has struggled to keep up with the growth of Canadian books in our library systems.”
The Public Lending Right (PLR) program, administered as a standalone fund at the Canada Council for the Arts, compensates authors, illustrators, and audiobook narrators for their contributions to Canada’s library collections. PLR programs exist in many countries to help offset the impact on book sales from free lending. Canada’s PLR design is considered world-leading, but the program strains to keep payments from shrinking over time.
“Payments in real dollars have decreased 38% since PLR was launched in the mid-80s,” added Daher. “Combined with other income trends for authors, the impact of this much-valued support is waning.”
TWUC believes PLR is perfectly positioned for use as a recovery mechanism. Payments are linked to relevant work from cultural creators, and the program is already adept at delivering income to the sector.
"Some of that $300 million fund will certainly be going to the Canada Council for the Arts,” added Degen. “TWUC is asking Canadian Heritage to earmark $15 million of it as a permanent increase to the Public Lending Right budget, and to commit to regular cost-of-living style increases to maintain PLR payments at pace with sectoral growth.”
VALUE OF CANADIAN BOOKS
Canadians turned to books and libraries in record numbers during pandemic lockdowns. There is no question this is a valued sector, and yet author incomes continue to free fall. TWUC urges the federal government to help Canada’s authors emerge from the challenge of the past year with real economic incentive for their continued work.
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 2,300 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.
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For additional information
John Degen, Executive Director
The Writers’ Union of Canada
DATE: April 21, 2021