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Over the many years of publishing Canada and the World, a magazine that coverts current events and world issues for Canadian high school students, we have come across countless teachers who have flatly admitted to us that they photocopy our material, and that of other publishers, without regard to copyright law. We have no way of knowing the value of this illegal activity, but over the course of the last couple of decades it must have amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Through the work of Access Copyright and the Copyright Board we thought we had reached a settlement with the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada for reasonable compensation to cover this activity. So, it was very disappointing to receive the news that the CMEC is appealing the Elementary and Secondary School Tariff (2005-2009).
To recoup some of that lost (may I say stolen?) revenue would have been enormously helpful to us. Now, we are told it may be years before fair value for our work is realized; we are not in a position to wait that long and have decided to cease publishing our magazine in May 2010 at the end of our current volume. Copyright infringement has literally put us out of business. It makes no sense for us to continue writing for this audience knowing that we are receiving only a fraction of the income our work should generate. No longer will we be able to offer Canada's high school students objective analysis of world affairs.
We have taken up the issue of copyright infringement with organizations such as CMEC and individual provincial departments of education. We have been told that in-service programs stress the need for teachers and librarians to obey the copyright law, but where the pencil hits the notebook those instructions are forgotten. Teachers tell us they know they are breaking the law by photocopying but go ahead and do it anyway. Their moral justification is that the greater good of providing resources to students trumps the rights of creators and publishers. Others have expressed astonishment that we charge for subscriptions to our publication. Somehow many teachers have the notion that we should be working for free.
And that leads us to the issue of the under-funding of education which is the root cause of the problem. We have raised the issue before with the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada only to be given a self-serving lecture about the astonishing amounts of new money the politicians are dolling out for the purchase of learning materials. If that was true then why was our son's Grade 11class on Ancient Philosophy supplied with just one textbook for all 25 students? Why do we hear constantly from librarians telling us their acquisition budgets have been frozen or are lower than they were ten or 20 years ago?
In the big picture the demise of Canada and the World will be a small brush stroke scarcely noticed. But, there are others like us and cumulatively the loss of Canadian education publishers will see the national canvas turning blank. Our school textbooks will become more and more non-Canadian and more Canadian children will learn, as one of ours did in elementary school from a Grade 4 teacher who was using an American resource, that "The Canadian flag was designed by Martha Washington."
The Council of Ministers of Education may think they are providing adequately for Canadian students and at the same time protecting the rights of creators and publishers. We can emphatically affirm through our daily dealings with educators that the ministers are mistaken.
Rupert J. Taylor
Linda E. Taylor
Canada and the World