“Writers Groups” presume too much

A letter to Industry Minister Tony Clement and Heritage Minister James Moore purports to speak:


on behalf of all professional writers in Canada”.


I’m sure the signatories represent many professional writers, but I am a professional Canadian writer

Canadian DMCA logo

and they certainly do not speak for me.

I am not very happy they claim to speak on my behalf.

You might consider them a wee bit arrogant.   Presumptuous even.

I suspect that some or all of the other professional writers in Canada may be a little dismayed by this as well.

Funny thing about writers: we like to choose our own words.

Even assuming that every member of each of the collectives actually represented by this “coalition” understand the issues and agree with the letter’s stated  position, surely the signatories are aware there are other writer collectives in Canada.   Like, say, the Writers Guild of Canada.   Further I would hope that they are also aware that there are professional Canadian writers who do not belong to any collective at all.   Like me.

Who are these “writer’s groups”?   Frankly I don’t recall ever hearing of any of these collectives until the other day.   Back in the day I was a member of the ACTRA Writer’s Guild (now known as the Writers Guild of Canada).   When doing a bit of research for my article on Access Copyright‘s bid to raise the post secondary Tariff on Canadian students on the order of 1300%, some of the names on the this letter were familiar.

Interestingly, five of the six organizations who signed this letter are also
Access Copyright Member Organizations.

Of course the other fourteen Access Copyright Member Organization Creator Groups are not signatory to the letter either.

The letter claims,


Canadian writers are collectively ready to support appropriate amendments that will meet the laudable goals of Bill C-32.”

laudable? …ahem

My opinion on Bill C-32 has been well documented:

C-32 Endangers My Rights
digEcon backstory (Bill C-32)
Copyright Modernization Act: Bill C-32
Astroturf: promoting Bill C-32
Professor Geist exposes Bill C-32

It’s safe to say “laudable” is not a word I have used or would use for Bill C-32’s goals.

Does this coalition of “writers groups” speak for me?

I don’t think so.

Phone wires run thought a dramatic purple and pink sunset

Nor do I agree with the letter’s fear of the expansion of fair dealing under education.   Michael Geist deals with the legal ramifications in his blog Writers Groups Attack Fair Dealing Reform in Copyright Bill

From my dual standpoint as writer and parent, education is one of the most important places for fair dealing exemptions.

Clearly Access Copyright does not grasp the ramifications of the technological changes that have dramatically reduced the costs of copying and distribution.   If collectives and corporations were smart they would be applying themselves in adaptation to the market.  

Instead most are pouring all their resources into attempts to legislate against progress.  

The technology genie is out of the bottle.

Although I doubt it will have much of a shelf life, bad copyright law can do serious short-term damage.   As a parent I believe that putting one young person in jail for sharing is one too many.   The long term will render these attempts futile.

As it stands C-32 will hold back Canadian creators with the over-the-top Digital Lock provisions of Bill C-32. At the same time the original DMCA is tempered by legal challenges brought by concerned groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation.   The problem is these “writer’s groups” seek to place Canada’s creators and knowledge economy at a disadvantage.

Still, I’m a live and let live kind of person. I think there should be choice. If these collectives and corporations wish to continue pretending it’s still the 20th century in the way they do business, more power to them.   Of course I believe their way of doing business dooms them to eventual failure.   I suspect they are too, which is why they are trying to use legislation to artificially turn back the hands of time.

If they want special rules for themselves, perhaps they should follow the advice of one of the commentor’s on Michael Geist’s blog and set up their own secure server. [Great idea, tom!] They can charge what they like and control their material as they wish without impeding any one else’s rights. Those who choose to use the service would have the choice that is taken from them by a tariff.

Our students deserve the best education we can give them. That makes sound economic sense for Canada. Even better, it’s important for freedom and culture.

This “Writers Group” letter also says:


We will have constructive suggestions to address this and other issues affecting professional writers, including exceptions for non-commercial user-generated content, the digital delivery of material held in libraries to library users across Canada, and secondary uses of our works on the Internet.”

Why did they choose to reserve these suggestions rather than submitting them to the Copyright Consultation?

Why should “professional writers” have any particular influence over exemptions for “non-commercial user-generated content”.   Presumptuous.

Also I’m a little concerned about their mention of ‘digital delivery of material in libraries’. This is way over the line.

If copyright restrictions limit what our children can and cannot be taught in our educational institutions, copyright law needs to be fixed.

When they claim to speak for me they abrogate my right to speak. Worse, claiming I support Bill C-32 is the opposite of what I believe. This letter most certainly causes me harm. That’s a problem

This coalition of “writers groups” does not speak on behalf of all Canadian writers.

Panel 1: My Business Model relies on extorting, criminalizing and punishing children.  2: Maybe you should find a new business model.  3: But It's How I feed My Children!
Reprinted from Nina Paley’s Mimi and Eunice

Image Credit: (thanks for the link pat donovan)
http://ninapaley.com/mimiandeunice/ Creative Commons (by-sa 3.0) attribution share alike license by Nina Paley.


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