April 23, 2020 On this World Book and Copyright Day, The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) is proud to support a joint public statement from the world’s writing and publishing community urging “governments all over the world to recognize, support and celebrate the importance of books, learning solutions and professional and scholarly content by adopting economic stimulus packages to sustain their respective publishing sectors and the value chains that surround them.”
In Canada, writers, publishers and our copyright collective have been quick to respond to the emergency needs and requests of parents isolated with their school-age children, and teachers preparing to teach remotely. Authors have taken to social media and video-sharing platforms to read their own work aloud for public access, publishers are busily clearing rights for teachers to use electronic versions of books and Canada’s copyright licensing agency rapidly launched the Read Aloud Canadian Books program relaxing licensing terms for the public performance of Canadian books by teachers for their students.
TWUC partnered with the Writers’ Trust of Canada to launch the Canadian Writers’ Emergency Relief Fund (CWERF) with support from the Access Copyright Foundation, RBC and a number of generous individual donors. The CWERF is distributing $280,000 in $1500 gifts to writers and published visual artists in extreme economic need because of the COVID-19 crisis. We are also continuing to provide important career support, legal consult and professional development to our community through digital means.
These are examples of writing and publishing taking care of the community as we also take care of ourselves. We’re doing all of this at a time when the physical supply chain for our industry has been shut down, all but halting our economy, and after a decade that saw a disastrous regulatory failure in the educational marketplace in Canada.
As today’s global statement points out, “We must find ways to ensure the future for authors, publishers, editors, designers, distributors, booksellers and those who work in collective management, so that the book industry can bounce back once this pandemic is conquered.”
We need the immediate help of governments to do that. In Canada, we are very grateful to the federal government for the income support and wage subsidy programs launched, and we encourage the Department of Canadian Heritage to use the mechanisms established in our community, such as the CWERF, to flow emergency funds to cultural workers.
But more immediate action is needed.
Specifically, TWUC calls on the federal government to finally fix the educational copying crisis that has so negatively impacted our industry. There is no longer any doubt that quality Canadian content created by Canadian authors and publishers is in high demand by the education system. It is time to clarify that the licensing of our work is mandatory, and to bring education back to the table to negotiate reasonable terms.
“I’ve been proud to chair the International Authors Forum for the past six years,” said TWUC executive director, John Degen. “Canada’s prominence as a book country has never been greater and, despite our ongoing copyright challenges, we had thought 2020 would bring us even greater recognition as the Guest of Honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Instead we find ourselves on the brink of economic collapse. There can be no more waiting on copyright repair. The government must act now to restore our markets, so the cultural sector can thrive once the lockdown ends.”