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Société québécoise de gestion collective des droits de reproduction

Newsletter "copyright edition" - November 17, 2019
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Newsletter: Copyright Edition

What’s happening with copyright? Here’s an overview of the significant events from the past few years to help you get a clearer picture.

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Editorial by our Executive Director

As a crucial year for the arts and culture sector draws to a close, your copyright collective has put together a special newsletter devoted entirely to copyright. In it, we give you an overview of the significant events from the past year and look towards the future to ensure that the Copyright Act is effective in protecting the rights and interests of creators and their publishers.

When the federal election campaign was launched, we contacted the candidates to ask them to put culture at the forefront of the political discussion and explain their party’s position on the issues affecting the arts and culture sector. Despite our efforts and those by many other organizations, scant attention was paid to that sector during the campaign.

Now that a month has passed since the election, we’re reminding our new government that an updated Copyright Act is needed following the review initiated in 2017 and the Parliamentary committees’ reports tabled this year. We’re also reaffirming that all work deserves to be compensated, and copyrighted content is no exception.

The text and image content producers represented by Copibec continue to feel the impact of the 2012 amendments and the time has certainly come to get it right.

The solutions to make the Act balanced are well known and do not require us to create some kind of utopia. The conclusions in the Canadian Heritage Committee's report confirm it and our government has an obligation to move in that direction to keep our culture strong and encourage creative efforts here in Quebec and across Canada.

All the factors needed to protect the creative process are already in place. The only thing missing is some political courage!

Here’s what we’re asking for

  1. Limit the application of fair dealing whenever licensing is possible at a reasonable cost through a copyright collective
  2. For copyright infringement cases, set the amount of statutory damages at a level sufficient to serve as a deterrent against legal proceedings

For complete details about where we think we should be heading, please refer to our recommendations in the brief we submitted to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage (La gestion collective : un outil moderne pour une rémunération équilibrée).

Frédérique Couette
Executive Director

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Copyright as it stands now

What’s happening with copyright? Here’s an overview of the significant events from the past few years to help you get a clearer picture.

2012 amendments

In 2012, the federal government extended the concept of fair dealing to include the education sector. At that point, writers, publishers and visual artists made it clear to our elected officials that the additional exception would have serious consequences for the arts and culture sector.

The notion of fair dealing for education purposes was not clearly defined in the Copyright Act and many educational institutions decided to interpret it more broadly so they could pay as few royalties as possible to authors and their publishers.

Since then, educational institutions outside Quebec have been reproducing Canadian content on a massive scale without obtaining permission and without paying compensation. In Quebec, royalties have plummeted.


The annual royalties paid to authors and publishers have plunged 50% in Quebec universities and nearly 20% in CEGEPs. Elsewhere in Canada, the drop has been in the 80% range. A large number of Quebec authors have been penalized by this situation.

The result was an increase in the number of lawsuits concerning copyright, such as the one between Copibec and Université Laval. Fortunately for everyone involved, an out-of-court settlement was reached in that case.

In the other provinces, the educational institutions have refused to negotiate with Access Copyright, which is the equivalent of Copibec outside Quebec. Despite a federal court ruling in favour of Access Copyright against York University for copyright infringement, York is still refusing to pay authors and publishers and has appealed the decision.

User licences ensure that authors and their publishers are paid royalties for the use of their content in educational institutions. It’s worth mentioning that those licences account for less than 1% of the institutions’ annual operating budgets.

Parliamentary committee reports

In 2017, federal ministers Mélanie Joly and Navdeep Singh Bains instructed the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology (INDU) to proceed with the five-year review of the Copyright Act. That committee then assigned the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage (CHPC) to conduct a study on the compensation models for artists and creators.

Copibec appeared before both those committees and submitted two briefs explaining how urgent it was to review and amend the Act so that it would be more favourable for creators.

In May 2019, the CHPC Committee tabled its Shifting Paradigms report. Copibec was satisfied with the recommendations made by the Committee, which recognized the need to correct the Act and adjust the compensation model for artists and creators.

In June 2019, the arts and culture sector finally had the opportunity to read the INDU Committee’s report. The Committee’s conclusions contrasted sharply with those from the previous report. The recommendations were vague and a wait-and-see approach was taken when it came to concrete steps to restore a balance between copyright owners and content users. The community of authors and publishers was justifiably disappointed with the report.

However, Copibec was pleased that the report dismissed the fair dealing claims made by universities and education ministries outside Quebec. In particular, the Committee indicated that licensing was the best way forward and noted that the fair dealing policies put into effect by educational institutions had not been recognized in court and did not comply with the analysis of section 29 of the Copyright Act.

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Mobilizing the community

Your copyright collective has been lobbying policymakers for many years to ensure that copyright remains a top-of-mind issue.

We have directly contacted elected officials to keep the interests of creators on their radar. It’s an ongoing process to remind policymakers that all work deserves to be compensated and copyrighted content is no exception.

When the federal election campaign was launched, Copibec ramped up the pressure on candidates to find out their party’s position on copyright issues. They all made commitments to update the Copyright Act.

With the election now a month behind us, Copibec has announced that it's ready to work with the new government to go forward with balanced, effective solutions that repair the damage done by the 2012 reform.

On-site in Trois-Rivières and Quebec City

Members of our team attended the book fairs in Trois-Rivières and Quebec City to raise awareness among players in the arts and culture sector concerning the Copyright Act review that was underway in Ottawa.

As a result, hundreds of authors, publishers and booksellers publicly showed their support for a balanced Act. The issue even made it onto the front page of Quebec City’s daily newspaper Le Soleil.

A Life Without Art? Really?

On April 23, the campaign called A Life Without Art? Really? was launched in conjunction with World Book and Copyright Day. The initiative was spearheaded by 16 organizations from the arts and culture sector, including Copibec. The goal was to raise awareness among the general public and policymakers across Canada about the crucial role played by copyright in preserving the existence of art and ensuring fair compensation for creators.

Coming soon: Montreal book fair

Copibec will be at the upcoming Salon du livre de Montréal to remind attendees that all work deserves to be compensated and copyrighted content is no exception. From November 20 to 25, members of our team will be distributing bookmarks and badges that you can wear proudly during the event. Come over and say hello to us at our booth (#751 near the Grande Place) or chat with a team member as they’re walking around!