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I am a writer who is also a university instructor, and so I see both sides of this debate. However, I count on income from my fiction writing to supplement my income. This income depends on royalties from the sale of my books as well as from the reproduction of my books under collective licences. I strongly believe that copyright should exist to protect writers like me. When others use my work, it should ensure I am compensated fairly.
There are collective licences like Access Copyright 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. Even though I also teach in a university, I am willing to live with restrictions on access to scholarly work if that ensures that writers are fairly compensated.
I am very worried that new exceptions and expanded fair dealing could significantly undermine my writing income, and the income of other writers, many of whom depend on royalties and fees to put food on their tables. Such exceptions are also at the same time damaging the market for books, magazines and newspapers published in Canada.
This is a very important issue for me!
When I think about how the current copyright laws should be modernized, I believe that:
Canadian copyright law should be based on general principles rather than specific technologies. The ability of a creator to get paid for the use of his/her work should not depend on the technology used.
It should be obvious to everyone that creativity and innovation will thrive only when they are rewarded. Fair compensation for creators provides the resources and incentives they need to continue to create and innovate.
I want my work and the work of my fellow writers to be distributed as widely as possible. But I want 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 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.
Properly drafted copyright legislation can foster competition and investment in Canada.
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 creators 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. As a result, legal online activity is skyrocketing among teenagers and illegal behaviour has plunged.
Canada's creative community has proven it can win accolades and achieve greatness in the global marketplace when the conditions are there for it to flourish and thrive. But to flourish and thrive, creativity and innovation need to be rewarded. Canada can be a leader in the digital economy by ensuring that copyright laws protect the livelihoods of creators and provide incentives to produce compelling, professional content that draws international audiences.
Like other professionals, I expect and deserve to be paid. No-one suggests that teachers should not be paid, or that the suppliers of computers and other materials used in the classroom should give them away for free. Canadian creators and information producers need the same respect if we are to continue making an important contribution to Canadian culture and society.
New exceptions and extensions of fair dealing that are being called for will be done at the expense of creators like me.
In conclusion, I want to thank the Government for giving writers the opportunity to express our opinions and concerns about these issues of critical importance. Please help to ensure Canada's copyright laws match international standards and reward innovation and creativity.
Thank you. Sincerely,
Author, The Dream of Aengus, Auld Lang Syne, When Night Eats the Moon, A Woman's Words, and many short stories and articles.