Professional artists in Canada have had their legislative interests systematically sidelined and ignored. Time to fix that.

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(image courtesy me and my little camera)

Something must change about the way cultural policy is created in Canada, especially cultural policy related to market realities. The way it works now too consistently shuts professional artists out of our own interests. We’re expected to somehow make our living here, but the influence we have on how our marketplace is structured is inconsequential, at best.

At worst, we’re subjected to a patronizing mixture of consultative lip service and behind-the-scenes restructuring that effectively keeps us out of the loop. We work hard to explain what we need from the law. We receive a lot of wide-eyed nodding at televised hearings. …


An optimistic, innovative future for artists and users of the internet; or the cynical status quo of “it can’t be done.”

by John Degen

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(Image re-used here with permission to me from me. First used here.)

Social media the last couple weeks has been filled with a great deal of discussion, argument, muddled information, and even intentional disinformation about this week’s European Parliament debate and vote on the Copyright Directive.

Proponents of the Directive (and I count myself as one of those) genuinely believe it will help level the playing field around online content, maintaining access for users while demanding greater responsibility and accountability from those online mega-platforms who have so wildly profited from drawing eyes to that content. Most importantly, it will layer in long-missing licensing and stewardship requirements designed to feed back some of the profits from online content use (and there sure is a LOT of profit, currently not going to the artists who create that content with their talent and labour). …


Another heavily coordinated attack of anti-copyright spam and robo-messaging aims to scare lawmakers from protecting artists.

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(Image courtesy me and my little camera.)

by John Degen

In early July 2018, in the face of a tsunami of highly questionable “protest” linked to influential and moneyed Silicon Valley concerns, members of the European Parliament declined to pass a much-needed Copyright Directive. Instead, they postponed any decision on copyright until mid-September when the bill will come again before the entire plenary for consideration, debate, and a new vote.

Serious questions have been raised about July’s online protests, specifically about the extent to which the messaging was actually a reflection of European voices — or human voices for that matter — and the extent to which they show any real understanding of the issues before Parliament. As with attempts to pass laws requiring greater tech accountability in other territories (notably SOPA/PIPA in the US, which saw tech giants threaten blackouts to scare consumers into engaging) European lawmaker offices were inundated with phone calls from non-constituents, automated e-mail messages, and robotic twitter spamming.


The education sector brings bad stats and worse calculations to Canada’s Copyright Review.

by John Degen

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(Image courtesy me and my little camera.)

More of Canada’s educational representatives have recently made presentations to Parliament as part of the ongoing copyright review. Sadly, the justifications they present for their enormous content grab post-2012 are not getting any more clear. And that’s mainly because of the bad statistics and even worse math they bring with them to Parliament. One might expect better from educators.

Bad Stats

An earlier handout of data from the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC) — purportedly culled from Statistics Canada, and showing a Canadian publishing industry somehow magically thriving in an era of unregulated free copying — has now been demystified and debunked for the review committee. …


Looking closely at the Copyright Review testimony from provincial Ministers of Education, and seeing what incredibly bad advice they’ve been getting.

by John Degen

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(The representative for CMEC consulting counsel at the Copyright Review. Image courtesy the Parliament of Canada.)

Recently, the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC) appeared before Canada’s Copyright Review to give testimony on the state of copying and author payment in education across the country. As expected by cultural workers (who are currently being sued by most of the provincial education ministries), CMEC did not bring any solutions for the current copying mess in their own shop. …


Canadian education reps try desperately to suggest their massive free copying isn’t hurting anyone. Ironically, no-one’s buying it.

By John Degen

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(CMEC’s thoroughly discredited “Fair Dealing” guidelines. Image courtesy me and my little camera.)

The Council of Ministers of Education Canada (CMEC) recently testified before Canada’s Copyright Review. Somewhat embarrassingly for CMEC, the review committee has been reminded several times now that way back in 2011 CMEC assured Parliament again and again that education would continue to pay licences for copying, and that creators would not suffer economically from radically expanded fair dealing.

Now, in 2018, with education having excused itself from licensing, and Canadian writers watching their copyright royalties shrink toward zero, CMEC is forced to spend a lot of time and energy telling Parliament that concerns over what they promised in 2011 are all a big misunderstanding. …


Testimony at Canada’s copyright review shows cultural workers suffering, the world noticing, and education pretending none of that is actually happening.

by John Degen

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(Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, reviewing Canada’s Copyright Act. Image courtesy the Parliament of Canada)

Canada’s copyright review committee has been travelling the country, setting down in five major cities to hear testimony from individuals and groups.

Testimony from the cultural side of the table has been shocking and compelling. In Toronto, for instance, best-selling children’s author Sylvia McNicoll revealed that she has personally visited a classroom (at a prison school) where the entire class set of her book were bound photocopies. …


Not all the questions or suggestions in Canada’s copyright review are good ones.

by John Degen

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(Image courtesy Access Copyright.)

For the past while, I’ve been publishing a series about the questions asked by Parliamentarians tasked with conducting Canada’s copyright review. And most of the questions being asked are excellent and on point, generally circling the one overarching question: How can we fix this educational copying crisis?

But not everyone chooses to see the crisis right in front of them. Astonishingly, some folks engaged with the copyright question like to suggest that somehow, magically, there has been no damage to Canada’s cultural sector resulting from the steep declines you see in the charts above. …


Uncontrolled educational copying has destroyed a market vital to Canadian creative professionals, teachers and students. We all need that market back.

by John Degen

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(A bookstore near Parliament Hill, Ottawa. Image courtesy me and my little camera.)

As Canada’s copyright review continues, I’m examining some of the key questions raised by those conducting the review.

During my recent testimony in front of the copyright review committee, Member of Parliament for Guelph, Lloyd Longfield, wondered if there is a supply chain problem at the heart of Canada’s educational copying crisis… and then he rather charmingly apologized for using a business term when referring to artistic production.


What if we had a one-stop shop for affordable content clearance and respectful payment? Well, we do, and it’s open for business.

by John Degen

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(Image courtesy me and my little camera.)

As Canada’s copyright review continues, I’m examining some of the key questions raised by those conducting the review. And, as I discussed earlier, it’s clear we’ve moved past questioning whether or not large-scale copying at educational institutions is or isn’t a problem in Canada.

It is a problem. So, how do we solve it?

Member of Parliament for Sault Ste. Marie, Terry Sheehan, asked pretty much exactly that when I appeared before the review committee on Parliament Hill. After quoting from a Writers’ Union of Canada press release concerning the need for an immediate fix to Canada’s copying problem, he asked me for a specific suggestion for that repair. …

About

jkdegen

Canadian novelist and poet, Executive Director of The Writers' Union of Canada, believer in the future of the book.

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