On February 16, 2018, all the school boards in Ontario and the Ministries of Education for all the provinces and territories (except British Columbia and Quebec) filed an action against Access Copyright. The legal case claims that the K-12 educational sector have overpaid fees for the copying of published works and seeks the return of those fees. The suit against the Access Copyright reaches back to three years prior to the enforcement of the Modernization Act, claiming that the education sector overpaid Access Copyright for the years 2010, 2011, and 2012 by an amount equal to CDN$2.35 per full-time equivalent student. A communication released by Access Copyright can be read here.
The Association of Canadian Publishers (ACP) has called on the Ministries and school to withdraw the suits against Access Copyright and to pay the tariffs certified by the Copyright Board for the copying of materials in K-12 schools for the period beginning in 2013, and bring Canadian K-12 schools back under licence.
In a press release, ACP said that Ministries of Education (outside of Quebec) and Ontario school boards claim they are exempt from paying tariffs certified by the Copyright Board, but as was made clear by the Federal Court of Canada in its July 2017 decision on Access Copyright vs. York University, tariffs certified by the Copyright Board are mandatory and enforceable. As a result, the Ministries of Education and Ontario school boards cannot “opt out” and refuse to pay for the copies they make. ACP President Glenn Rollans states that “As a founding member of Access Copyright, the ACP views this legal action launched against Access Copyright as a disturbing attack on Canadian publishers and Canadian creative workers. We have always been good partners in supporting Canadian curriculum with Canadian resources”. Rollans also called “(...) on the ministries and boards to reconsider this action, and to work towards constructive solutions that benefit both their students and Canada’s creative sector.”
The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) through John Degan, its Executive Director and also Chair of the International Authors Forum (IAF) has also called for the withdrawal of the legal case launched against Access Copyright on 16 February 2018.
In a speech delivered to the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Degen said that “(..) Canada’s current copyright laws are not one of our admired cultural exports(..)” since Canada’s “current copyright policy has dangerously eroded the economic viability of our cultural sector and encouraged an educational environment in which Canadian creativity is not pragmatically valued.”. When referring to the recently launched legal action against Copyright Agency, Degen questioned “whether tens of millions of dollars worth of our work can be copied and taken by education budget-makers without permission or payment to us.” To read the full speech and watch the video of Degen’s appearance, please click here.
In her turn Marjorie Doyle, chair of the Writers’ Union, said to Publishing Perspectives that “the Writers’ Union of Canada supports Access Copyright, and will help fight this lawsuit to the end.” Doyle added that the suit “is an outrageous attack on Canada’s writers. Authors in this country provide extraordinary value to education, and only ask to be fairly paid for their work.”
For more on the position of Canadian Authors on the legal action against Access Copyright, please read the full press release available here.