Writers to Students and Teachers: It’s Time to Talk About FAIR Dealing

It’s Time to Talk About Fair Dealing, Part 2

TWUC Executive Director, John Degen, discusses recent changes to copyright law in Canada, how those changes are currently being misinterpreted by educational administrators, and the broader implications of that misinterpretation for Canadian students, teachers and the cultural economy. Thanks to CKUT Radio (Montreal), and Courtney Kirkby, host of the Wednesday Morning After show.

Here is a link to the audio file as provided by our podcast service:

Direct download:  http://traffic.libsyn.com/bookroom/CKUTinterviewJan2013.m4a


It’s Time to Talk About Fair Dealing, PART 1

On November 12, 2012, The Writers' Union of Canada sent members and staff to talk with Canadian community colleges about fair copyright royalties for authors. See for yourself what happened.

The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) respects and values the teachers, professors and students who use the work of Canadian writers every day in Canadian classrooms. You are the consumers of what we create, and you are fellow and future creators of Canadian culture. We want to talk with you about recent changes to the relationship between Canadian writers and the educational sector. We believe this extremely important cultural bond is in danger.

Just the Facts:

  • During the process of copyright reform, the education sector assured writers that our copyright royalties – small payments for the copying of our works, cumulatively significant to all of us – would survive changes to copyright law;

  • as soon as the Copyright Modernization Act was passed, many in the education sector immediately and aggressively pushed an expanded definition of fair dealing, with the purpose of avoiding paying for collective licences – licences that have been in place in schools, colleges and universities for over twenty years;

  • a recent Supreme Court of Canada decision affecting a small fraction of the copying in elementary and secondary schools is now also being broadly misinterpreted as expanding what can be considered “fair dealing”;

  • tens of millions of dollars in annual copyright licence revenue – income relied on by the writing and publishing sector – is now endangered;

  • this over-reaching interpretation of fair dealing by the education sector needlessly complicates and jeopardizes ongoing, affordable and legal access to a comprehensive repertoire of high-quality Canadian and foreign content for teachers and students.

The long version:

For more than two decades in Canada, writers have received payment when our work is copied for use in K-12 schools, colleges and universities. Canada’s writers have been partners in education, often volunteering in the classroom as well as providing high-quality, contemporary educational content to the consumers of educational resources - teachers and students. A  provision in copyright law called “fair dealing” has always allowed some copying by teachers and students (and by writers and the public, too) without permission. Fair dealing allows limited copying that is not intended to damage the authors’ market for their work.

Until recently, writers, publishers and educators have in good faith negotiated and agreed upon licences that established limits on what may be copied under collective or “blanket” licences.  A blanket licence authorizes most of the copying done in an educational institution so there is no need to obtain prior permission from individual rightsholders. Educators then have great flexibility in picking and choosing content for courses. Students and researchers also have easy access to a vast repertoire of Canadian and foreign works.

Now, an influential educational-admin lobby is attempting to unilaterally expand the scope of fair dealing so that much of what has been paid for under blanket licensing would become licence-free. College administrators are suddenly insisting that large portions of a work and even entire chapters, stories, poems, plays and articles can be used without any compensation whatsoever. Recent changes to the Copyright Act and a Supreme Court decision on copying in classrooms are both being broadly interpreted – in our view, misinterpreted - to make the case for more free content in schools.

Throughout the copyright reform process, The Writers’ Union of Canada voiced our concerns to the educational sector, and to government, on this issue. In fact, we predicted that a copyright grab would be the immediate result of certain changes to the Copyright Act. Parliamentarians and others were assured by the very educational strategists now pushing fair dealing beyond reasonable limits that licensing revenue to writers was not in danger.

Clearly, those assurances have been discarded. You can see from our video, Canadian Writers Shut Out of Fair Dealing Conversation, that some in the educational community seem unwilling to even discuss the future of your educational resources with us. When TWUC sent members and staff to talk about fair dealing with the Association of Canadian Community Colleges, the writers were removed from the room before the ACCC’s expanded policy could be discussed.

The Writers’ Union of Canada wants to talk with our partners in education and culture – with the teachers, professors and students who use our work every day in Canadian classrooms. We do not believe fair dealing was meant to take the place of fair compensation. Everyone working in the educational sector, including those of us who are providing our works for use in the classroom, should be treated fairly. Let’s get together and talk about what fair dealing really means.

We’re ready to talk.