Writers join forces to fight new copyright bill

CopyrightFreelance journalists, poets, playwrights, translators and fiction and
non-fiction book writers will join forces to protest Canada’s new
copyright legislation, which they say could be devastating to the
writing trade, The Toronto Star reports.

Star opinion columnist David Lewis Stein writes that the amendments to the copyright bill, introduced in June “could allow teachers to copy sections of books and articles and authors might get nothing at all for use of their work. Currently educational institutions pay about 10 cents a page for many of the copies made for students. The money goes to “Access Copyright,” an organization that distributes payment to publishers and writers. A change to the “fair dealing” section of the act could greatly enlarge the amount of written material that can be copied free for education.”

“Some will argue that eliminating these charges will help education. Education is one of those good causes just about everyone supports . . . especially educators. The system provides them with a good living. High-school teachers across Canada can earn more than $60,000 a year. Tenured professors at 14 universities earn more than $130,000 a year.

“By way of contrast, most writers earn less than $15,000 a year in book royalties and payment for freelance articles. Now with even these meagre earnings endangered, the Writers’ Union of Canada, the Professional Writers Association of Canada, the Playwrights Guild of Canada, the League of Canadian Poets and the Literary Translators Association of Canada will work together to get revisions to the bill.”

Educational groups have supported the amendments, The Star writes, adding “But to writers, this “fair dealing” feels like expropriation of property. It feels like the government saying, “We are going to let people occupy rooms in your house and they won’t have to pay any rent.”

Stein compares the plight of writers to that of farmers, whose work creates profit for food processors, wholesalers and retailers, reminding readers that only a few years ago farmers took their tractors to downtown Toronto to raise awareness. By comparison, an entire publishing industry is dependent on what writers produce, but “writers can’t create traffic jams to get public attention.”