News

Creative groups welcome Copyright Act review announcement, stressing the need for meaningful reforms

On December 14, the Government of Canada announced that the Standing Committee on Industry will undertake the statutory review of the Copyright Act.

Creators have been eagerly awaiting this review, as it presents a vital opportunity for the government to stand up for Canadian creators, and ensure that they receive fair remuneration for their work in the evolving digital landscape.

There is reason to be optimistic that this review will bring reforms that benefit creators. In the government’s release, The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage, spoke of the need to ensure Canadian creators are compensated fairly for the use of their work:

“Our government is committed to helping Canadian creators succeed and having great content easily discovered and enjoyed in Canada and abroad. This requires a copyright framework that works well in the context of our fast-paced digital world and provides creators with opportunities to get fair value for their work.”

The government release also notes that “it is critical for Canada to maintain a comprehensive copyright framework, one in which Canadian creators get fairly compensated for their work, users benefit from great choices and business can thrive.”

The announcement was widely welcomed by creative industry groups, including several supporting partners of the Focus On Creators coalition:

Importantly, amid the excitement and optimism there is also a sense of urgency to improve the current situation for creators. Many who congratulated Minister Bains and Minister Joly on the announcement also stressed the need for a full and meaningful review of the Act.

“Music creators, and all creators who depend on copyright, deserve a Copyright Act that protects their rights when their works are commercialized by others,” said Graham Henderson, President and CEO of Music Canada. “This is our chance to address the Value Gap threatening the livelihood of Canadian creators and the future of Canadian culture.”

Artist advocate Miranda Mulholland, who recently gave a keynote address in Ottawa on success in the digital marketplace to an audience that included political decision-makers, was also quoted in Music Canada’s release on the importance of strong copyright provisions:

“A modern copyright framework containing strong IP and copyright provisions is essential for an effective marketplace for music creators. This Copyright Act review is an important first step in ensuring artists and labels are able to earn a fair market value for their work. Canadian creators have been eagerly awaiting this review.”

Access Copyright’s statement touches on the importance of the Copyright Act review for authors and publishers:

“Access Copyright is pleased to see this important review underway. Since the Copyright Modernization Act in 2012, creators and publishers have experienced a drastic reduction in their income for the use of their work by the education sector. This important review heralds a critical opportunity to re-examine the role that copyright plays for both creators and users and address the Value Gap caused by 2012 amendments to the Act to ensure continued access to outstanding Canadian content for our classrooms.”

Access Copyright also drew attention to I Value Canadian Stories, “an initiative spearheaded by a coalition of associations across the creative industries who are calling on the federal government to restore fair compensation to creators and publishers for the use of their works by the education sector during this review.”

Eric Baptiste, Chief Executive Officer of SOCAN, called for Canada to assume a global leadership position on copyright:

“Canadian copyright legislation is lagging behind those of other G7 countries, and I hope that, through this review, Canada will want to assume a world leadership position on copyright, as it does on other issues. In a sector in turmoil, especially with the arrival of new ways to consume and listen to music, more than ever we need strong copyright protection to ensure that music creators and publishers are fairly compensated for their work.”

More than 3,600 Canadian creators have signed our letter to Minister Joly. Now that the review has officially been announced, it is more important than ever to urge the Government of Canada to put creators at the heart of future policy. If you’re a Canadian creator and haven’t yet signed our letter, please read it and sign if you agree.

As the review process unfolds, Focus On Creators will share new developments and any opportunities for Canadian creators to make their voices heard.

Panel of creators highlight how the Value Gap has impacted their careers & industry

On Nov. 22 in Ottawa, a panel of representatives from different cultural industries shared their perspective on how the digital marketplace has affected their industries and individual careers. The panel followed a powerful keynote by Miranda Mulholland, an artist and entrepreneur who highlighted the challenges for artists working in today’s digital age and proposed solutions to help ameliorate the current situation in the music ecosystem. Among these challenges is the Value Gap, defined as the significant disparity between the value of creative content that is accessed and enjoyed by consumers, and the revenues that are returned to the people and businesses who create it.

The panel, which was moderated by Vassy Kapelos, Global National’s Ottawa Bureau Chief and host of The West Block, included:

 

A selection of quotes from the panel are included below, with Ms. Kapelos’ questions in bold.

What does the Value Gap mean to you?

  • Posner: “For someone like me, who is not a songwriter but someone who works on the soundtracks for television and movies … I am part of a world that I think has only been moments behind the songwriting world… because what has happened with songwriting and streaming, and the massive devaluation of that content has also begun happening because of the Netflix, and the Hulu and the Amazon streaming services – which are undeniably great ways to enjoy the entertainment – but there is a massive, massive difference in the way that they are valuing the music and the performances that are going on on those networks. Literally it could be as much as a 95 to 98% difference in how something would have paid an artist over time on terrestrial television, versus how it is being now streamed on Netflix. So to me, that’s a big part of what the Value Gap is.”
  • Levy: “The Value Gap is just as real for writers as it is for a musician, but it comes from a different space, and it’s been created in a different way… in 2012, there were some changes introduced in the Copyright Act, and as Miranda said, some where great, and some really created more problems than they solved. And one of those problems that created was in fact in the educational use of content.”

Do you think the idea of an artist who can pursue their craft full-time is now long gone?

  • Posner: “In my world of scoring, it’s certainly become drastically less of a possibility…. I really do think there is this huge area of the middle-class that is going to disappear…. Potentially, we could lose a whole generation of Canadian talent that just is not going to be able to make it a go of it, it’s just going to be a hobby… I don’t think we want to live in a world where it’s only the Drakes and only the Taylor Swifts that are able to rise to the top… imagine if Joni Mitchell couldn’t get there because that’s what’s rising to the top simply based on business, it’s kind of a scary thing… So as we’re up here saying our work needs to be valued more, it’s vital to the consumer that it be valued more, so that the choices are there.”
  • Frew: “I get young artists all the time, asking me about how to make it – and I am just at a complete loss as to where to begin…. I think that artists that are still in the position I’m in, we have a sort of moral and professional obligation to join the quest and speak up on behalf of these young artists.”
  • Levy: “From the writing and publishing world, it’s about using Canadian content in our classroom. It’s about not using American textbooks, and having actually a vibrant writing and publishing sector, so we have the content that we need in our classrooms. And we are already seeing the impact of this Value Gap.”

Where does government fit in in all this? You heard Miranda talk about the Copyright Act Review … what are some tangible things that you hope to see come out of that review?

  • Levy: “There are solutions – what we haven’t seen now is a willingness to actually go through the hard parts and put those solutions in place. We need to put the creator at the heart of Copyright Act…That needs to be the lens by which we conduct the review of the Act, and then we need to have the courage to make the changes that are necessary.”
  • Posner: “We need a voice at the table. And it needs to happen fast – faster than it has happened.”

What is your level of optimism?

  • Frew: “It’s like any other great movement – it’s one voice at a time… one step at a time… My level of faith would be equal to the level of faith that I have that people like Miranda and Stan (Meissner), and these advocates that are willing to step up to the plate on behalf of us, as long as there’s enough of us who raise our voices…. What are we asking for? We’re asking for fairness.”

Video of the keynote and panel is now available online, and embedded below.

Canadian creators are eagerly awaiting the Copyright Act’s statutory review

When the Copyright Modernization Act (CMA) was passed in 2012, it included an amendment that mandated that the Copyright Act be reviewed every five years. Recognizing both the length of time that it took to modernize Canada’s copyright laws (the CMA was the fourth attempt to amend the Act since 2005), as well as the speed at which technology evolves in the digital age, the mandatory five-year review was intended to ensure that Canada’s copyright regime remains responsive to a changing environment.

The Copyright Act review was mandated by Parliament to begin five years after the day the CMA took effect on November 7, 2012.

“Five years after the day on which this section comes into force and at the end of each subsequent period of five years, a committee of the Senate, of the House of Commons or of both Houses of Parliament is to be designated or established for the purpose of reviewing this Act.”

–  The Copyright Modernization Act

Creators have been eagerly awaiting the Act review, with the hope of addressing the copyright policies that affect their livelihood. More than 3,500 creators have signed the Focus On Creators joint letter to Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly, which urges her to put creators at the heart of future policy, specifically including the five-year mandated review of the Copyright Act in 2017. As well, a new initiative called I Value Canadian Stories looks to the Copyright Act review as an opportunity to restore fair compensation to creators and publishers for the use of their works by the education sector. Seeking the enhanced protection of creators’ intellectual property, the Canadian Music Publishers Association called for a full review of the Copyright Act in an op-ed published in the Hill Times, and Music Canada has called for a “full and meaningful review” of the Copyright Act to help restore a functioning marketplace and curtail cross-subsidies paid by creators to major media corporations.

The government has repeatedly referred to the review of the Copyright Act as an opportunity to protect creators’ rights. When Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly revealed her vision for Canada’s creative industries in the digital age with her Creative Canada speech in September, she announced that the government would “soon launch a parliamentary review of the Copyright Act,” which she would ensure “defends the interests of creators.”

Minister Joly also referred to the review of the Copyright Act as an opportunity to help Canadian creators earn a living from their work during an online townhall hosted by HuffPost Canada in June. Responding to a question posed by Focus On Creators, Joly replied: “I know the issue of fairness to creators is really important, and that is why actually I raised it with the important digital platforms. … It’s something that I have, certainly, at heart, and in the context of the revision of the Copyright Act – there is going to be a Parliamentary revision of the Copyright Act – I’ll have that in mind as well.”

At the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage on November 2nd, Minister Joly pointed to the revision of the Copyright Act as an opportunity to address the concerns of the Francophone community and the Quebec cultural sector.

It is clear that both creators and the government see the statutory five-year review of the Copyright Act as a key opportunity to address the policies that affect the livelihood of Canadian creators. It is now time to begin that review process; not only because it is mandated by legislation, but because there is an urgent need to address the policies that affect creators’ livelihoods. For Canadian creators, a full and meaningful review of the Copyright Act cannot come soon enough, and is now officially overdue.

Federal Government opens consultations on reforming the Copyright Board of Canada

On August 9, the federal government launched consultations on reforming the Copyright Board of Canada. The goal of Copyright Board reform, according to the government release, is to “enable creators to get paid properly and on time,” and to “create new business opportunities in the current fast-moving economic environment.” The release also states that getting the Copyright Board system right would mean “more money for creators and users and less money being spent on legal fees.”

The announcement was made by the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage.

The Copyright Board is an economic regulatory board empowered to establish royalties paid for the use of copyrighted works, when the administration of these copyrights is entrusted to a collective administrative society.  Royalty rates established by the Board include the reproduction of musical works, educational and private copying, public performance of music, and other rights that are vital to creators’ livelihoods.

“The Government of Canada recognizes the invaluable contribution of Canadian creators to our economy and society and is committed to ensuring fair remuneration for artists,” said Minister Joly. “Through these consultations, we seek concrete improvements to the Copyright Board that enable creators to efficiently access new, diverse and stable streams of revenue. I invite anyone concerned with these issues to engage in this important consultation.”

The announcement has been applauded by several Canadian creative industry associations, including Focus On Creators supporting partners.

“Music Canada applauds Minister Bains and Minister Joly for beginning these consultations on Copyright Board reform,” said Graham Henderson, President and CEO of Music Canada. “The time is right to modernize the Board, which will better support music creators and advance Canada’s innovation agenda. A more efficient and predictable regulatory environment will help spur growth for Canada’s cultural industries and the creative class.”

“The operation and resulting decisions of the Board are crucial to the development and growth of the music publishing industry in Canada”, said Canadian Music Publishers Association Executive Director Margaret McGuffin. “The Canadian Music Publishers Association has long agreed with the need to make the Board’s tariff-setting process as efficient and effective as possible, especially at a time of profound change in the digital world.”

“CIMA is encouraged to see the government taking action,” stated the Canadian Independent Music Association in a release. “CIMA has advocated for the Copyright Board to become more nimble and anticipatory, and render decisions in a timely manner. We advocated for changes that would ensure that the Copyright Board of Canada be optimally configured and provided with adequate resources in order to render fair and equitable tariff decisions in a timely manner – a process that is more closely aligned with ever-evolving technology and the planning cycle of the Canadian music industry.”

“We fully agree with the need to improve the Copyright Board’s efficiency and transparency. We believe that this undertaking will benefit all of its stakeholders,” said SOCAN’s CEO, Eric Baptiste.

“Access Copyright has long supported the need to ensure that the Copyright Board’s tariff setting process operates in a timely and efficient manner,” said Roanie Levy, CEO & President of Access Copyright. “This consultation provides a welcome opportunity to pursue meaningful reform that will promote the expedient approval of certified tariffs and also encourage users to comply with those same tariffs.”

“Canada’s professional authors support any review of the Copyright Board that modernizes and makes more efficient the protection of creator rights in an innovative market,” said John Degen, Executive Director of The Writers’ Union of Canada. “We look forward to advancements in the enforceability of Board decisions, and we commend Ministers Joly and Bains for launching this process.”

The consultation will run until September 29th. To take part in the consultation, interested parties can share their views by emailing CBconsultations@canada.ca.

Federal Court judgement in Access Copyright v. York University underscores need for meaningful Copyright Act Review

Professional creators in Canada have welcomed a landmark Federal Court judgment reining in rampant free copying of creative work in the educational space. In a decision delivered July 12, Justice Michael Phelan in effect ruled in favour of all creative professionals when he found that York University had over-reached on its unilaterally defined claims of “fair dealing” for the “mass systemic and systematic copying” it performed and/or allowed on campus.

In unequivocal language, the court discarded York University’s claims to the Copyright Act’s fair dealing provision, recognizing correctly that York’s usage of the copyright protected material in question was “not fair,” and was therefore subject to the terms of a previously defined tariff. Justice Phelan also correctly applied precedent from recent Supreme Court of Canada decisions, making the court’s decision on this case extremely unlikely to be overturned.

“It is evident,” Justice Phelan wrote, “that York created [their Fair Dealing] Guidelines and operated under them primarily to obtain for free that which they had previously paid for. One may legitimately ask how such “works for free” could be fair if fairness encompasses more than one person’s unilateral benefit.” York’s guidelines, modelled largely on similar policy promoted throughout the educational sector, were found to be “arbitrary” and “not soundly based in principle.”

“This is the win we’ve been waiting for,” said The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) Chair Marjorie Doyle in a release. “For years now, Canadian writers have seen huge amounts of our valuable work copied for free by the educational sector. The court has recognized the value of our labour and ordered fair payment for that work.”

“Great news for creators!,” tweeted the Playwrights Guild of Canada.

“Needless to say, I’m happy with this ruling,” award-winning Canadian author Brian Brennan wrote on his blog. “Since I started freelancing in 2000, I have been grateful for the fact that Access Copyright did the heavy lifting for me in terms of protecting my copyright. It meant I didn’t have to spend time in my local library watching to see who might be photocopying something I had written.”

“CARCC: Copyright Visual Arts would like to thank Access Copyright for its role in the recent Federal Court judgement,” said Paddy Lamb, Co-chair of CARCC . “Visual artists have been directly affected by the loss of income resulting from the 2012 amendments to the Copyright Act. We stand with our colleagues in other sectors in calling for practical and meaningful reform that protects and encourages professional creativity in Canada.”

This court challenge was necessitated by poorly designed amendments to the Copyright Act introduced in 2012. Those changes led to a dramatic increase in copying incorrectly claimed under fair dealing, which has had a significant and detrimental effect on Canadian authors’ incomes. While the Federal Court’s decision is an important legal development for Canadian authors, visual artists, playwrights, and publishers, the case underscores the need for the upcoming Copyright Act review to include meaningful reforms to the Act in order to better encourage and protect professional creativity.

As the Focus On Creators letter to Minister Joly states:

“We will continue to do what we can to succeed in the evolving digital landscape, but we need the help of Canada’s government right now…  We know you understand the cultural significance of our work; we hope you also see its value and crucial place in Canada’s economy. We ask that you put creators at the heart of future policy.”

Canada’s Federal Court has now provided clear direction for the upcoming review of the Copyright Act. There should be no more confusion about copyright’s purpose.

Focus On Creators calls on the federal government to provide meaningful Parliamentary review to Canada’s Copyright Act. The review should focus on encouraging professional creation of Canadian culture and protecting the rights of Canada’s precarious cultural sector workers.

If you’re a Canadian creator and haven’t yet signed the letter, please read it, and sign if you agree.

Canadian creative industry associations applaud Supreme Court of Canada decision in Equustek v Google

On June 28, the Supreme Court of Canada issued what has been deemed a landmark decision, upholding an earlier Supreme Court of British Columbia ruling that Google must deindex search results worldwide of a website trafficking in goods created from stolen trade secrets of the BC-based Equustek Solutions Inc.

The decision has been applauded by creative industry associations in Canada, as well as by international groups, some of whom were interveners in the case supporting Equustek. For these groups, the decision represents a step towards better protection for intellectual property owners on the borderless Internet, where infringement can cause irreparable harm to the livelihoods of creators.

In its decision, the Supreme Court emphasized that, in order to be effective, its order must apply globally:

“The problem in this case is occurring online and globally. The Internet has no borders – its natural habitat is global. The only way to ensure the interlocutory injunction attained its objective was to have it apply where Google operates – globally.”

In a blog post, SOCAN summed up the implications of the decision for intellectual property owners:

“The decision has broad implications for intellectual property law and provides further protection to intellectual property owners for the use of their works on the Internet. Intellectual property owners can now seek an order requiring Internet intermediaries to remove access to infringing websites worldwide.”

The Association of Canadian Publishers, which represents approximately 115 Canadian-owned and controlled book publishers, and also acted as an intervener in the case, commented on the impact the decision could have on the book industry in a press release:

“The Equustek decision will be important to book publishers given the widespread online piracy of books. The Court’s decision is expected to support efforts to curb internet-based infringement of a range of digital products, including ebooks, audiobooks, and scanned print books.”

This Supreme Court decision aligns with principles supported by the Focus On Creators coalition, and has been applauded by supporting partners and other groups as having the potential to better protect the livelihoods of creators. As the Focus On Creators letter to Minister Joly states:

“The carefully designed laws and regulations of the 1990s were intended to ensure that both Canadian creators and technological innovators would benefit from digital developments. We hoped that new technology would enrich the cultural experiences for artists and consumers alike. Unfortunately, this has not happened. Instead, our work is increasingly used to monetize technology without adequately remunerating its creators.”

If you’re a Canadian creator and haven’t yet signed the letter, please read it, and sign if you agree.

ACTRA and ACTRA RACS, who combined represent more than 23,000 Canadian actors and tens of thousands of recording artists in Canada and around the world, join Focus On Creators coalition

In release issued today, ACTRA (Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists) and ACTRA RACS (Recording Artists’ Collecting Society) announced they have formally joined the Focus On Creators coalition as supporting partners to call for action from the federal government to better support the livelihoods of their members.

“ACTRA is proud to join other members of Canada’s creative class to ensure the government hears the voice of creators when it comes to federal policy,” said ACTRA National President David Sparrow. “Whether they sing, write, compose or act, creative artists are facing real challenges in a digital age, and we need government to step up.”

ACTRA represents the interests of 23,000 professional performer members across the country working in English-language recorded media. ACTRA RACS is the division of ACTRA dedicated to distributing royalties to recording artists for the use of their work.

“Too many artists are living in poverty, while giant tech companies are producing devices that exploit their work without compensation.” said ACTRA National Executive Director Stephen Waddell. “Consumers are viewing more content online than ever before on multiple digital devices and screens. Yet artists are not being paid for use and reuse of their work on those devices.”

If you’re a Canadian actor, recording artist, or any type of creator, and you haven’t yet joined the nearly 3,000 creators who have signed the Focus On Creators letter urging Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly to put creators at the heart of cultural policy, please read the letter and sign if you agree.

Miranda Mulholland shines spotlight on challenges for artists in the digital age in Economic Club of Canada speech

On May 24th, artist & entrepreneur Miranda Mulholland spoke at the Economic Club of Canada, sharing her frank perspective on the challenges that artists face in the digital age. Her speech, “Redefining Success in a Digital Marketplace,” highlighted the devaluation of artists’ work and provided a series of recommendations on how artists, consumers, industry members, and governments, can help improve the situation for creators. Video and text of her remarks are now available at https://www.mirandamulholland.ca/advocacy/.

Mulholland was one of the original signatories to the Focus On Creators joint letter to Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly, and she spoke to the inspiration for the launch of the initiative in her speech.

“At Minister Joly’s ECOC Speech last June, I was able to have a conversation with her and her message was that ‘artists need to speak up’, that she needs creators on her side – Out of this came Focus On Creators –  a coalition of Canadian musicians, authors, songwriters, and other members of the creative class, which was created to bring focus to the artists’ perspective in light of some major federal cultural policy activities,” said Mulholland. “At this years Juno Awards in Ottawa, I had the opportunity to speak to Minister Joly again and again she said that artists need to speak up. It’s a little uncomfortable to do, I’ll admit – as the outside perception of success is so often wrapped up in financial security and I’m here admitting to all of you that it’s looking pretty grim in that regard on a day to day basis, let alone saving for the future. It is also scary – and I told the minister this – to be openly critical of the hands that feed you, even if they are only feeding you morsels, but she only reiterated that we need to speak up. So here I am. Speaking up.”

Many of Mulholland’s points aligned with the messages in the Focus On Creators joint letter. Her experience confirms key points in the Focus On Creators letter and background documents; specifically, that Canadian creators have mastered the necessary digital tools, and have monetized everything they can, but still struggle to earn an adequate living.

Mulholland’s speech was followed by a Q & A session moderated by Kate Taylor, author, film critic and arts columnist at The Globe and Mail. Taylor also recapped the speech in an article titled ‘What happens when we starve our artists’, published last Friday.

“I was asked to moderate Wednesday’s event, and the first thing I did after Mulholland had finished her speech was to congratulate her on her courage,” writes Taylor. “It is hard to understate how tough a step she has taken: In a world that equates money with success and in a business that markets glamour, she is admitting to poverty.”
Mulholland’s speech clearly resonated with many of the artists in attendance and online.

“Feeling so validated hearing discussion between @miramulholland & @thatkatetaylor at @ECofCanada about digital economy for artists,” tweeted Lisa Patterson, award-winning songwriter, producer & engineer. “@miramulholland You articulated our struggles so clearly. Helpful take away. On personal level I feel validated on unspoken frustrations,” she continued.

“@miramulholland absolutely blown away by your incredibly sensitive and insightful speech which left me in tears on several occasions,” tweeted singer and songwriter Damhnait Doyle, who performs in a band called The Heartbroken.

“thank you @miramulholland for speaking to this issue. it exists across the artistic-board. I think about this a lot,” tweeted actor, writer & artist Annie Briggs. “Folks, have a read!”

“100% the same for authors and other artists,” tweeted novel and comic book author Cecil Castellucci. “Lending my voice to @miramulholland here.”

Mulholland’s speech has also made an impact with government. At a meeting of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage yesterday, MP Julie Dabrusin raised the speech as she asked Minister Joly a question about the upcoming review of the Copyright Act.

“Last week I attended an Economic Club luncheon, and Miranda Mulholland spoke very forcefully about what she is saying is some of the negative impact of the digital shift on music creators,” said Dabrusin. “And even over the weekend in my riding, I have spoken with local authors and creators, who have raised issues – and a lot of them turn on the Copyright Act. So my question to you is, what are the government’s plans with respect to the review of the Copyright Act?”

“Thank you Julie. Of course, I am happy you were at the lunch of Miranda. I have had the chance to discuss with her about the impact of music streaming, and her capacity to live from her work, and the evolution over time, in her career, in terms of remuneration,” replied Minister Joly. “I am very, of course, concerned about the question of fairness to creators, in the context of this digital disruption.  And that’s exactly why I decided to launch a conversation, an international conversation, about the importance of cultural diversity and fairness to creators with digital platforms.”

Joly added that fairness for creators would be included in the upcoming review of the Copyright Act. We will be working on this, and certainly the importance of fairness to creators and protecting IP for creators is something that we will be putting forward.”

 

We thank Miranda for her courage and honesty in speaking to her experience as a creator in the digital age. The reaction from her fellow artists shows that many in the creative community are experiencing the same challenges. If you are a Canadian creator, and you haven’t yet signed the joint letter, we invite you to do so at https://focusoncreators.ca/sign-the-letter/.

Our letter to Minister Joly hits 2,500 signatures as creators in the spotlight during JUNOs 2017

We are happy to announce our joint letter to Minister Joly has now surpassed 2,500 signatures, following a JUNO Awards weekend where creators, and their rights, were front and center.

The weekend officially opened with the Chairman’s Reception and Welcome Reception at Ottawa’s National Gallery of Canada on the Friday evening. Music Canada displayed an installation called “Anthology: Defining Moments in Canadian Music” that celebrates our music history through the last five decades, including the developments that govern music creators’ ability to make a living from their work, and the new technologies that connect them to their fans. The display was accompanied by a quiz card, which invited guests to test their Canadian music knowledge and highlighted Focus On Creators. At the Chairman’s Reception, attended by political decision makers and music industry personnel, Music Canada’s Graham Henderson argued that we owe it to creators to improve the conditions in which they work, and have two vital opportunities with Canadian Culture in a Digital World consultations and the 2017 Copyright Act review.

SOCAN and its songwriter members were in the spotlight all weekend. At Saturday night’s Gala Dinner & Awards, SOCAN CEO Eric Baptiste called for improved compensation for music creators, a call that was echoed by many speakers that evening, including Buffy Sainte-Marie, as she accepted the Allan Waters Humanitarian Award, and Bell Media President Randy Lennox, as he accepted the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award.

At a reception hosted by CIMA and ADISQ on Sunday, the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage, spoke of the need for fairness, and her government’s commitment to promoting Canadian artists with $4.1 million in export investments. Minister Joly also recognized creators’ contribution to Canada in a statement published in the JUNOs guidebook. CIMA’s President Stuart Johnston spoke at Sunday’s event, where he mentioned the Focus On Creators coalition, and the united calls to put creators at the heart of future policy.

JUNO-nominated Ottawa musician Kathleen Edwards, who on Friday participated in the ‘Ottawa as a Music City’ discussion, posted a spirited call on Facebook to fellow creators, urging them to add their names to our joint letter.

“SIGN this letter,” she wrote. “I did. If you know people in the creative arts in Canada, share it. It’s important that Canadians know and appreciate that artists contribute to the economy in this country and their intellectual property deserves to be protected. This isn’t a ‘please give us a hand out’ letter. It’s a ‘please implement policy that protects our copyright.’”

We’re encouraged that supporting creators was a major theme of JUNOs weekend, coming from artists, broadcasters, industry workers, and elected officials. Creators must be at the center of any policy discussions, and we’re glad to see this being recognized so widely. Let’s keep up this momentum! If you’re a creator and you haven’t yet signed the letter, please do so at: https://focusoncreators.ca/sign-the-letter/

International Authors Forum calls on Canada to protect its cultural workers by repairing copyright

At its recent annual general meeting in London, the International Authors Forum (IAF) passed a special resolution calling upon the Canadian government to immediately repair its copyright legislation, after earlier amendments resulted in unsustainable losses to Canada’s authors and publishers.

The IAF noted the recent “Canadian Content in a Digital World” consultations, and a recent statement from the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage, that future policy “should address the issue of fairness to creators when it comes to how they can make a living in this digital age.”

The IAF statement, which was also posted on the Writers’ Union of Canada website, notes that since 2012, Canada’s writers and publishers have seen educational copyright agreements collapse, resulting in an annual loss of tens of millions of dollars. Canadian schools, colleges and universities, insisting they had been given broad permission to copy without permission or compensation because of a one-word expansion of Canada’s fair dealing provision, have in large part refused to sign new collective licensing agreements. Ongoing use of previously licensed material has resulted in a number of costly court challenges that threaten to go on for years.

“Author incomes in Canada are in a steep dive,” said IAF Chair, John Degen, “and the situation is unsustainable. Canada cannot expect teachable, high-quality Canadian content in our schools, if education is not willing to pay for that work.”

The IAF noted that outside of a copyright licensing context, post-secondary institutions in Canada appear to be copying more and more into print and digital course packs, largely without the permission of the author, or any compensation to either author or publisher. The educational sector has drawn up its own unilaterally-defined, legally-unproven fair dealing guidelines.

“Schools claim their guidelines provide clarity and promote respect for copyright,” added Degen, “but we’ve found the exact opposite. The Writers’ Union of Canada recently took action to stop the scanning and distribution of entire books on one university campus. Recently published, in-copyright books that were otherwise available for purchase were being scanned and uploaded in full to a public website, by scholars insisting they had the right to do so. They did not. As far as I can tell, the guidelines promoted by education are fostering just this kind of confusion, and creating a free-for-all of copying.”

The IAF concludes with a statement of support for a balance between user access and creator reward. “Respecting this balance drives creation and creates opportunities for students to access high-quality work”, reads the statement. “Without creator reward in the current context, Canadian copyright has fallen out of balance.”

Focus On Creators’ joint letter to Minister Joly, which has been signed by more than 2,500 individual creators, calls on the government to help Canadian creators earn a reasonable living, so that they will be able to continue to tell Canadian stories. Noting that Canada has two major opportunities to stand up for creators over the next year: Canadian Heritage’s cultural policy review and the five-year mandated review of the Copyright Act in 2017, the letter calls on the government to put creators at the heart of future policy. If you’re a Canadian creator and you haven’t yet signed the letter, please visit www.focusoncreators.ca/ourletter/ and add your name to help send this important message to policymakers in Ottawa.