Bill C-11, An Act to Amend Canada’s Copyright Act (la Loi modifiant la Loi sur le droit d’auteur) had its first reading in the House of Commons on September 29, 2011 and faces a third reading in the house very soon.
That means legislators will again have a chance to debate the merits of a bill that falls far short of what it needs to do. We have one more chance to make our points to our legislators.
Luckily, the latest bill gives photographers the same rights as other creators. That’s heading in the right direction. Now we have to give visual artists the same rights too.
In other ways, however, the concerns of creators like me remain largely ignored. Instead, this new bill amends the copyright act in a way that pleases businesses, educators, libraries, students and consumers in the futile aim to create a balance between all these interests.
That occurred in part because writers have been busy trying to adjust to enormous turmoil in the industry and fighting with those who use and commercialize our work and/or learning to commercialize it ourselves throughout the period since Canada signed the WIPO Treaty in 2005. Salaried commentators, including lawyers, professors, librarians and administrators got a virtual monopoly on the conversation.
Part of the turmoil occurred because writers launched four different class-action lawsuits against publishers beginning in 1999. They are: L’AJIQ contre Le Devoir; Robertson versus Thomson et al; Robertson versus Thomson et al II; and The Electronics Rights Defense Committee (ERDC) contre Southam Inc et al. The last of those lawsuits has just been settled.
Writers’ arguments against publishers became part of the conversation around copyright and that encouraged legislators to view themselves as moderators. This gave an opening for others trying to cut costs to make stronger cases.
The need to balance creation with use and commercialization shouldn’t be the goal of copyright.
Like patents, good copyright laws should provide incentive to create inventory. Creators need long gestation periods, flexible contract terms and the ability to share in the results of their labour, which often aren’t realized until decades after our works are produced.
We need to focus on those messages.
Failing that, we need to begin creating a new kind of conversation for the next round of amendments.