Settlement in Copibec Class Action Highlights the Path for Government on Copyright Reform
TORONTO, June 21, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) congratulates all parties in the amicable settlement of a class action copyright infringement suit between Laval University and Copibec, Quebec’s collective licensing agency. Despite widespread unlicensed copying throughout most of Canada’s post-secondary education sector (outside of Quebec), and a broken Copyright Board process, Copibec has managed a positive outcome for cultural workers. Full details of the out-of-court agreement will be released after court approval of the settlement.
“It’s a very welcome development that Copibec and Laval have managed to agree on a licensing solution for educational copying,” stated TWUC Chair Eric Enno Tamm. “This will reduce both costs and confusion for Laval professors and students, and ensure the best educational materials are widely accessible. It sets an example to other universities across Canada (outside of Quebec) that have refused to pay for copying the works of writers and have wasted millions on pointless lawsuits.”
Laval University had previously refused Copibec licensing, choosing instead to depend on its own internally developed “fair dealing” guidelines. Similar copying guidelines across Canada were the centrepiece of last summer’s Federal Court decision against York University’s illegal copying practices. The court found York’s guidelines to be markedly unfair, and noted they appeared to be developed as a way of avoiding payment to writers.
Confusion around legal copying practices and the importance of a licensed copying environment stems from passage of the 2012 Copyright Modernization Act, which imposed an unnecessary and highly contentious category of fair dealing on the educational market. This resulted in the collapse of educational royalties for Canada’s commercial authors, and has led to constant court action as schools, colleges and universities withdrew from licensing without legal authority to do so.
“We’re happy with this result, but Canada’s educational copying system remains broken,” added Tamm. “The Copyright Board’s minimal statutory damages provide no real incentive for compliance, and despite this settlement and the York decision, most educational institutions in Canada continue to refuse licensing. Canadian writers will continue to lose millions of dollars in revenue as a result of unfair, illegal copying by schools and universities.”
As part of an ongoing Statutory Review of the Copyright Act, TWUC is calling for the removal of the educational fair dealing category from the Copyright Act, the harmonization of statutory damages across all tariffs at the Copyright Board, and a clear statement about the mandatory nature of those tariffs.
“When the details of this settlement are released in coming days,” concluded Tamm, “they could very well serve as a model for government to fix the current copyright quagmire and legal mess in Canada. Writers have a right to fair pay for their creative works and a negotiation process to set the price of copied works. Writers want negotiation, not litigation.”
The Writers’ Union of Canada is our country’s national organization representing approximately 2100 professional authors of books. The Union is dedicated to fostering writing in Canada, and promoting the rights, freedoms, and economic well-being of all writers. www.writersunion.ca
For additional information:
John Degen, Executive Director
The Writers’ Union of Canada
416.703.8982 Ext. 221