Canadian Authors Call for Action Against Illegal Copying

Toronto, May 4, 2020 Canadian Authors Association (CAA) joins our fellow creator and publisher organizations in their reactions to the April 22, 2020 Federal Court of Appeal decision in the case of York University v. The Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency (Access Copyright).

In that recent decision, the higher federal court affirmed the lower federal court’s 2017 ruling that York University’s self-styled “fair dealing guidelines” are, in law, unfair. Since many learning institutions have adopted similar guidelines, the higher court’s ruling fortifies the position that the educational community must respect creator rights. Educators cannot continue to copy illegally according to their own rules. CAA applauds that portion of the higher federal court decision since it balances the rights of users with those of creators. If creators are paid for their work, then users such as Canadian schools will continue to have access to high quality Canadian content.

In the same decision, however, the higher court ruled that Copyright Board-certified tariffs are not mandatory. The Copyright Board tariff process provides both educational institutions and collective societies – such as Access Copyright, in the case of writers and publishers – with a practical, effective method of establishing fair rates for use of creative works. Until now, tariffs were considered mandatory. The decision “deprives creators of fair and affordable payment for the use of their work by stripping them of the ability to rely on their collective to ensure compliance with their rights and forcing them to be their own compliance officers,” pointed out Access Copyright in its recent media release.

In summary, educational institutions’ fair-dealing guidelines are unfair, yet individual creators now have a personal onus to seek out infringements by users such as educational institutions, and to enforce their rights. Ideally, collectives would enforce the rights, and creators would devote their valuable time to creating. This situation is deplorable.

“The appeal decision reinforces that Canada’s copyright framework is broken,” stated the Association of Canadian Publishers in its release.

The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) uses the same metaphor. The federal government must “repair the marketplace for Canadian creativity,” it says. CAA joins TWUC’s call for immediate implementation of the 2019 Canadian Heritage’s Standing Committee recommendations in Shifting Paradigms.“Canada needs to support a flourishing culture,” said Margaret Hume, national chair of Canadian Authors Association. “Our literature, music, and theatre tell our Canadian story. To foster an environment that encourages the continuance and growth of our stories, we must support the creators by allowing them to receive fair compensation for the use of their copyrighted work.”

Canadian Authors Association stands by the right of creators to receive fair compensation for the use of their copyrighted work.

“The current situation is not sustainable,” said Anita Purcell, CAA’s executive director. “Writers and publishers have been waiting since 2012 for copyright amendments that truly safeguard our rights. In the interim, millions of dollars in earned revenue has been lost. The fixes have been clearly spelled out — how much longer must we wait?”