TWUC's Letter to UBC

On September 11th, 2013, the University of British Columbia sent a broadcast email to its entire community announcing "the price of course packs created and sold through the UBC Bookstore has been reduced by an average of 33 percent..." This cost reduction is in large part the result of new copying practices and guidelines at the university, claiming that fully 10% of a published work, entire chapters, entire stories, etc. can be copied and used in course packs with no permission required, and no compensation to the writer of the content.
For decades now, uses such as this have been fully paid for through collective licensing, and tens of millions of dollars has flowed back to deserving writers. The Writers' Union of Canada Chair, Dorris Heffron today sent this letter to UBC's President. UBC responded later the same day, and the President's letter is linked to at the bottom of the page.

Please note:

As the UBC copyright licence story grows, there's a very important point to be made about that institution's creative writing department itself. The decision to NOT pay for a collective licence was not made by the UBC Creative Writing Program. TWUC's understanding is they have protested the decision and continue to do so. The excellent and dedicated writers on faculty at UBC are, in a sense, being doubly victimized here, with an untenable professional position. Too much of the recent copyfight has been played out using divide and conquer tactics, turning consumers against creators, creators against librarians, etc. To be absolutely clear, TWUC's current disagreement is with high-placed administrators and their legal and policy advisors who are setting what we consider to be damaging copyright policy at Canada's colleges and universities, not with the teachers and students themselves, who we view as painfully stuck in the middle.
Please feel free to share this page and this information as widely as you like.


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)



Click here to read TWUC's Survey of Canadian Authors on Educational Copying.

The UBC President has responded to TWUC's letter here.

TWUC then responded to UBC here.

Quill & Quire covered TWUC's letter here, and UBC's response here.