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To whom it may concern:
I am a professional writer of over 40 years experience. I have produced newspaper articles and columns, radio scripts, scholarly articles, short stories, poetry, translations, and novels. I have won awards for my work. I have published five books, both fiction and nonfiction. Despite the fact that I hold three university degrees in English and devote six days a week to my writing, I do not make a living as a writer. Far from it. In fact I barely earn enough to cover the basic costs of my professional life — computer, paper, postage, etc.
Copyright should exist to protect writers like me. When others use my writing, copyright should ensure I am compensated. Collective licences exist to allow universities, schools, corporations and governments to make copies of my work and the works of other creators while ensuring that we are fairly compensated. This is a system that works well, but is in peril. I am worried that new exceptions and expanded fair dealing could significantly undermine my already small income from writing, while at the same time damaging the market for books, magazines and newspapers published in Canada.
The rights of writers must be fairly balanced with the needs of users to access copyright works. The Copyright Act must provide clear, predictable and fair rules to allow Canadian authors to derive financial benefits from their creations. Canada must ensure that its copyright framework for the Internet is in line with international standards.
Canada's Copyright Act needs to be reformed. New digital technologies have made it cheap and easy for anyone to copy files and make money from them, or to copy and distribute works without recognizing a writer's need to get paid for these uses. This situation demeans and devalues intellectual property. Canada needs rules to discourage the unauthorized taking of other people's intellectual property without permission or compensation. It is only fair that Canada protect writers' investments of time, money and creativity.
Canadian copyright law should be technology neutral. It should be based on general principles rather than specific technologies. The ability of a creator to get paid for the use of his or her work should not depend on the technology used.
Creativity will thrive only when it is rewarded. Fair compensation for writers provides the resources and incentives writers need to continue to create. Although I want my work to be distributed as widely as possible, I want also to be paid fairly when my work is used. Fair dealing already allows for substantial free use of copyright works. With a system of collective licensing in place, there is no need to expand fair dealing.
Instead of resorting to exceptions and expanded fair dealing which do not offer compensation to creators, the Government of Canada should facilitate an expansion of the existing system of collective licensing which provides users with easy access to copyright materials through one-stop shopping and creators with fair remuneration when their works are used. Collective licensing helps consumers obtain access to works while ensuring creators are fairly compensated.
Canadian creators and publishers are actively pursuing new business models and opportunities. Expanded fair dealing, new exceptions in the Copyright Act and a weakening of collectives and collective licensing rules would undercut these models and the sustainability of our Canadian cultural industries.
The copyright reforms advocated by Canadian authors and publishers are reforms that have been successfully implemented in other markets. In many countries that have modernized their copyright laws, digital marketplaces are flourishing, consumer choice far exceeds that in Canada, and illegitimate file sharing is declining. The result? Legal online activity is skyrocketing among teenagers and illegal behaviour has plunged.
Canada's literary community has proven it can win accolades and even achieve greatness in the global marketplace when the conditions are there for it to flourish and thrive. These conditions include the rewarding financially of authorial creativity and innovation. Canada can be a leader in the digital economy by ensuring that its copyright laws protect the livelihoods of creators and provide incentives to produce compelling, professional content that draws international audiences.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide input on an issue of vital importance to me and my colleagues. I am a dedicated, disciplined writer who produces innovative, high-quality products. Like other professionals, I expect and deserve to be paid. No one suggests that teachers should not be paid, or that the suppliers of classroom computers should not be paid. Canadian writers need the same respect if they are to continue to make an important contribution to Canadian society. Please help ensure that Canada's copyright laws match international standards and reward the hard work and creativity of Canadian writers.