Copyright Act review: Getting it right this time

Copyright Act review: Getting it right this time

Every year, thousands of Quebec writers, visual artists, magazine and newspaper contributors and publishers are paid royalties when their content is reproduced. The collective licensing model makes it possible for royalties to be distributed when content is used that way.

Under that model, copyright collectives such as Copibec can act on behalf of all those creators by collecting royalties from the educational institutions that use their content in schools, colleges, CEGEPs and universities. The very modest royalty amount paid by the institutions is important for creators because that income supports them in their creative work.

The bad news is that those royalties could soon disappear. Why? Because exceptions were added to the Copyright Act in 2012 and, since then, various Canadian educational institutions have been saying they’re no longer required to pay royalties for their massive use of copyrighted content.

What can we do?

The House of Commons is currently reviewing the Copyright Act. Now’s the time to remedy the negative impacts of the 2012 amendments (in French). Our Members of Parliament can put an end to this unfair situation and ensure that creators are paid the amounts they’re owed for the massive use of their content in classrooms:

- MPs can limit the fair dealing exception in cases where educational institutions have the option of obtaining a licence at a reasonable cost from a copyright collective when they use and reproduce content.

- In the event of infringement, MPs can set the statutory damages at a level sufficient to dissuade educational institutions from using legal proceedings to financially impair creators and the organizations that represent them.

The royalties distributed by Copibec for content used in class have fallen by 22% since 2012. This trend will only get worse if the Copyright Act is not amended. What’s more, educational institutions in Quebec could simply decide to follow the approach in the rest of Canada and stop paying creators altogether.

Outside Quebec, educational institutions have given themselves permission to broadly interpret the new exceptions. As a result, every year about 600 million pages are copied or scanned but their creators have not been receiving any compensation since 2013! That means they’re collectively losing millions of dollars in royalties.

Quebec creators looking at the situation in the other provinces are very worried. Our elected representatives now have the opportunity to fix the mess created by the 2012 reform. Let’s hope they take full advantage of this opportunity.