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Submitted by Access Copyright, The Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency 2010–07–13 11:43:02 EDT
Theme(s): Building Digital Skills, Canada's Digital Content, Digital Infrastructure, Growing the ICT Industry, Innovation Using Digital Technologies


The Consultation Paper asks, "Which conditions best incent and promote adoption of ICT by Canadian businesses and public sectors?"

Access Copyright believes that for a thriving Canadian digital economy, the Government of Canada must recognize that:

  • Creativity is the heart of a digital economy. Creativity and innovation thrive when rewarded. The government must encourage a greater adoption of and use ofICTs in such a way as to ensure that creators and producers are paid when their content is used.
  • Collective licensing is critically important in a digital economy. Collective management meets the demands of the market, by providing users with instantaneous access to content, while ensuring fair compensation to content creators. It is a practical, effective solution that will help to promote Canada as a digital leader.
  • Canada's Copyright Act must instill trust and confidence in the digital marketplace for creators and consumers. Canada can be a leader in the digital economy by ensuring that its copyright laws protect the livelihoods of creators as well as the businesses of publishers, by providing incentives to produce compelling, professional content that draws international audiences.
  • Canada needs a national digitization strategy to preserve its heritage that involves the private sector and respects copyright.


1. Creativity is at the heart of the digital economy

Access Copyright believes that a Canadian digital economy must first recognize the critical role that the creator of content plays in a digital economy. Creators and producers of Canadian content must be able to compete on an equal footing with content powerhouses across our borders. Only through maintaining a strong focus on innovation and creativity will they be able to meet this challenge. Successful investments in innovation and creativity are all the more vital given the need to develop new business models to address the challenges of a rapidly evolving marketplace. Uncertainties in the business environment, in particular with regard to expectations of a return on such investments, act as a strong disincentive.

In Canada, as elsewhere, creativity and innovation thrive only when rewarded. Fair compensation for publishers and creators provides the necessary resources and incentives to support that reward. Writers and publishers are the start of a value chain that takes content from their originators to Canadian readers, researchers, educators and students. Canadians all stand to benefit from a sustainable and vibrant creative industry.

Publishers invest hundreds of thousands of dollars every year in creating textbooks and other resources for the education sector as well as other sectors. These investments in innovative digital content and business models create thousands of high–paying jobs in Canada. They also leverage the work of thousands of Canadian freelance writers, photographers and visual artists.

The ability to easily and perfectly make a digital reproduction makes it difficult to monetize creative rights. In 2008, the British Government launched a similar project in an attempt to secure the United Kingdom as one of the world's leading digital knowledge economies. As noted in the Digital Britain Final Report, "The growth of internet aggregators has been good for advertisers, who find new cheap and direct routes to those they need to reach. It is also good for consumers, providing them with free search, email, storage, mapping, what's–on information services, access to social networks, to create and enjoy user–generate content and multiple other applications. But what aggregators do not do in any quantity however is fund the creation of long–form professional content. The unintended consequence is that a significant part of the paid–for–advertising revenues that once funded long–form content locally now funds different sorts of services and applications for consumers or are repatriated to the global internet aggregators in the forms of returns to the shareholders."

What is important in the development of a digital economy strategy is that the encouragement of a greater adoption of and use of ICTs be done in such a way as to ensure that creators and producers are paid when their content — which enhances the value of the ICT — is used.

Without adequate compensation, creators cannot create. This will lead to a decline in the production and dissemination of home–grown content. To ensure that Canadian creators and producers can compete internationally in a digital economy, the government must support an infrastructure that will fund both the innovators of ICT and the creators and producers of the content that enhances the value of the ICT.

2. Collective management completes the balance

Collective licensing presents a practical, easy, fair and efficient balance in the online marketplace. For example, Access Copyright acts on behalf of Canadian authors and publishers to collectively license users to copy from millions of copyright protected materials. We provide educators, businesses and other users of copyright protected works with the ability to copy from books, magazines and newspapers while at the same time ensuring that creators and publishers are fairly compensated for the use of their works. Access Copyright's licences originally covered photocopying only but over the last few years have been extended to allow users to scan extracts from print publications to create digital copies and to cover digital publications.

Since its inception, Access Copyright has distributed over $200 million in royalties to creators and publishers. In 2008, Access Copyright distributed over $30 million to copyright owners. Creators and publishers alike depend on these revenue streams. For Canadian creators, many of whom struggle to get by on modest incomes, these revenues help pay for basic items essential for survival. For Canadian publishers, who work hard to keep their business going in an industry known for its low profitability, this income pays royalties and advances to creators, salaries to employees, overheads and inputs, and provides their businesses with the means to take risks and make investments as producers of Canadian content.

Collective licensing remains not only relevant, but critically important in a digital economy where the rapid dissemination of creative content makes it difficult for creators and producers to monetize their work. In a world where there is the risk of a complete loss of control by rightsholders for the use of their works as well as of the amount to be charged for that use, collective licensing can overcome these problems. Collective licensing allows users easy access and ensures that creators and producers are fairly compensated for their efforts.

A successful Canadian digital strategy will support and encourage the collective licensing schemes already in place in Canada. Instead of resorting to exceptions and an expanded fair dealing provision which do not offer compensation to content owners, the government should facilitate an expansion of the existing collective licensing system. Collective management already provides users with easy access to copyright materials and content owners with fair remuneration when their works are used. This system is a "win–win" for everyone.

3. The Copyright Act Must Support a Digital Economy

As recognized in the government's Consultation Paper on a Digital Economy Strategy for Canada, the government has a key role to play by ensuring that proper legal and regulatory frameworks are in place to protect consumers and business. Copyright laws need to give creators and consumers the tools they need to engage with trust and confidence in the digital marketplace. A copyright framework that is principles based, flexible enough to deal with new technologies and that balances the interests of creators, innovators, consumers and intermediaries is the foundation of a digital economic strategy that promotes creativity and creation, innovation, economic growth and competition.

Bill C–32 does none of this. Rather, it introduces new exceptions and greatly expands existing ones. These changes undercut the existing rights and abilities of content owners to monetize their works. New exceptions, which create a sudden increase in uncompensated uses of works, will result in significant lost sales and millions of dollars in revenue losses to Canadian content owners from collective licences alone. Canadian content owners rely on these important sources of income.

The Consultation Paper asks, "Are there new legislative or policy changes needed to deal with emerging technologies and new threats to the online marketplace?"

Providing certainty through clear rules and a legal and policy framework consistent with emerging global standards is a necessary prerequisite and incentive to investments in innovation and creativity. The framework must include the protection of the creator and producer of content. Otherwise, there will be nothing to sell in the digital economy. A knowledge economy that has nothing to sell will make it impossible for Canada to compete internationally.

Bill C–32 must be amended to ensure that: (i) there is compensation to content owners when their works are used; (ii) there are provisions for access with compensation; and (iii) content owners have remedies when their works are infringed.

The Digital Britain Final Report states, "The civil infringement of taking someone else's intellectual property or passing it on to others through file–sharing without any compensating payment is, in plain English, wrong."

This is the type of message necessary from the Canadian government in its digital economy strategy. It is critical that the government signal in the legislation and educate its citizens about the harm that is done to Canadian content when consumers take it or pass it on without payment. A clear message that creators' and publishers' contributions to the digital economy will be valued and respected is critical.

4. A Proper Framework to Digitizing our Cultural Heritage is Required

The preservation of literary, scientific and artistic expressions is in the interest of authors, visual creators and publishers, as well as consumers. Within the framework of the development of sustainable business models, rightsholders also wish that their works be made available to the widest possible audience through bookshops — physical or virtual — or libraries.

Canada must establish a proper framework and funding so that we can preserve our Canadian cultural heritage. This framework must also respect copyright. Several mass digitization projects, including the Accessible Registries of Rights Information and Orphan Works towards Europeana, are currently taking place in Europe pursuant to negotiated agreements between libraries, copyright management organizations and rightsholders. Google is also engaged in a massive (the largest of its kind) book digitization project which is currently the subject of a proposed class–action settlement with authors and publishers. Smaller digitization projects are also taking place in Canada. In considering what a national digitization strategy should look like, we encourage the Canadian government to adopt an approach which seeks the active involvement of the private sector and the respect of copyright, creating a system of collaboration between rightsholders, collective management organizations and libraries. Wherever possible, voluntary licensing mechanisms should be put in place to clear the necessary rights. Where voluntary licensing is impracticable or impossible, collective licensing can be relied on to provide easy licensing solutions at reasonable prices. Collective licensing is also well suited to deal with the problem of orphan works.

Access Copyright thanks the Government of Canada for this opportunity and looks forward to participating in the continuing discussions.


The public consultation period ended on July 13, 2010, at which time this website was closed to additional comments and submissions.

Between May 10 and July 13, more than 2010 Canadian individuals and organizations registered to share their ideas and submissions. You can read their contributions—and the comments from other users—in the Submissions Area and the Idea Forum.

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