Canada’s Copyright Licensing Agency Slashes Jobs and Service

Serena Barone Canada, Copyright law, News

Authors Left Without an Effective Industry Champion

The International Authors Forum (IAF) is concerned at the news that Canada’s longstanding copyright licensing collective, Access Copyright, will be cutting staff positions and key services in the coming months. The Canadian educational copying market has been severely degraded over the last decade, since an ill-considered amendment to national copyright law encouraged domestic schools, colleges, and universities to copy for free what they had previously licensed.

The world’s writers have watched the situation in Canada with dismay, as evidence of cultural and economic damage piled up without legislative repair in the country’s Parliament. The Canadian Parliament has reviewed the Copyright Act, identified both the problem and workable solutions, surveyed the extreme damage, and still not acted.

One of Canada’s largest educational institutions, York University in Toronto, was challenged in court to show that their widespread copying was legal and fair. They could not. The court found that hundreds of millions of pages per year is routinely copied illegally, and while that finding stands to this day, there has been no government action on enforcement.

“The news that our licensing agency is failing is beyond frustrating, despite being entirely predictable,” said author Danny Ramadan, Chair of the Writers’ Union of Canada. “The work of Canadian writers is protected from unlicensed copying all around the world, but not in our own country. Our government’s inaction on copyright has effectively destroyed a functioning marketplace. And Canada cannot protect our international colleagues from this out-of-control copying either – our market is now a no-fly zone for world literature. As it should be. Who would want to do business here?”

The IAF has previously communicated concerns to Canada’s government, calling on Parliament to make the necessary repairs as far back as 2017.

A balance between user access and creator reward is key to a healthy cultural sector. Most advanced economies have longstanding licensing requirements for institutional educational copying. Respecting this balance drives creation and allows students to access high-quality work. Without creator reward in the current context, Canadian copyright has fallen out of balance, and its creative workers are suffering the consequences.

“Licensing requirements are standard business outside Canada,” notes Barbara Hayes, CEO of the UK’s Authors Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS). “A respectful and rewarding educational market is key to domestic success for national literature and provides robust access for students. There’s no good reason for Canada to go without a legal requirement for educational licensing.”