Freedom of Expression

Professional Writers Question Feds on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information

Freedom of Expression and Access to Information are two principles that must apply in any healthy civilized democracy. Self-employed and freelance writers in Canada—writers who hold a social responsibility as the independent voice in our media—are concerned about the direction the federal government is moving in its application of these two important principles.

As knowledge experts, freelance writers engage in science as much as creativity. The closing of the Eric Marshall Aquatic Research Library at the Freshwater Institute on the University of Manitoba campus is but the latest decision that heightens our concern. Recent actions like the loss of the mandatory census or the decommissioning of the National Research Council (except as a partner to private industry) suggest a rejection of public policy based on objective research and evidence.

With reports of the systematic muzzling of public servants and a diminishing access to information, as measured by Canadian Journalists for Freedom of Expression, it is not difficult to connect the dots. What emerges is a clear pattern: the deliberate downgrading of knowledge itself and a refusal by our own government to allow us to access it.

“We stand shoulder to shoulder with The Writers Union of Canada, The Canadian Science Writers Association , and many other responsible voices in the creative community. We all express serious concern that the federal government is making our contribution more difficult by denying and limiting our access to that which drives progress and informs our citizens on a daily basis,” says PWAC President Michelle Greysen.

Since 1976, The Professional Writers Association of Canada has been a non-partisan organization representing freelance writers working in every genre and medium across Canada.

For more information contact:

Sandy Crawley
Executive Director

Fairness or Hypocrisy?

Hello UBC Funding committee,

I will not be donating to UBC this year, or the next, or for as long as UBC does not pay writers like myself for our intellectual property via Access Copyright. My short stories have been used in high school, college and university literature classes since the 1990’s. My annual cheque from Access Copyright has been shrinking dramatically since Canadian universities began withdrawing their funds from the only program which pays Canadian writers a very small percentage for the ongoing pedagogical use of our work. Your plea for funding states, below:

From sustainability to human rights, medical research to economic reform, technological development to international relations – when you make a gift to UBC, you are helping to shape the future.

For many years, I have managed to donate $100 to the UBC Bursary Fund, from which I was a grateful beneficiary in the early 70’s or to the UBC Sociology Department’s Pat Marchak Endowment Fund, amongst other departments. Despite my modest annual income, I firmly believe in paying it forward to help students like myself who come from lower income families especially. I also donate to Doctors Without Borders, the Caravan Farm Theatre, BC Children’s Hospital, and assorted other literacy and cultural organizations as I know that every $50 or $100 helps further the goals of these worthy groups. But I cannot support my own alma mater (B.A. 1974, Teacher’s Certificate 1976) when the President proclaims lower prices for course “packages”, thanks to not paying underpaid writers like myself.

I cannot imagine UBC not paying other professionals whose services and products are ongoing and are made use of every year by professors and students. As a published/paid writer since 1968, with many decades spent improving my craft, a diploma from another institution in creative writing, and seven books to date plus professionally produced plays, freelance journalism in print and radio, et cetera, I ask you to stare long and hard at the words “sustainability” and “human rights” and to think about how not paying contemporary Canadian writers for our intellectual property fits in with those lofty concepts.

Therefore, with true regret, I will not be donating to UBC until this matter is resolved.

Caroline Woodward

Lennard Island Lightstation

Copyright Should Work For Everyone

December 11, 2013 – Thousands of Canadian creators and publishers learned today that despite efforts to negotiate new and reasonable rates, the University of Toronto and Western University will not renew their current licences with Access Copyright.

“We are extremely disappointed,” said Roanie Levy, Executive Director of Access Copyright. “Access Copyright’s licence has enabled faculty to create efficient resource packages in both paper and digital form that are tailored to both their needs and those of their students.

Millions of pages are shared in this way every year. Roughly 80% of the content copied comes from books. It is unlikely that access to these titles is licensed by the universities through library or institutional subscriptions.”

Instead of paying royalties to creators and publishers it is expected that these institutions will now rely on fair dealing guidelines, which are untested by law and closely replicate the scope of coverage in the Access Copyright licence. These policies represent a self-interested interpretation of what some in the education sector would like the law to be.

Clearly fair dealing requires clarification. Renewing licences is difficult without fair dealing guidelines that work for everybody – educators, students, creators and publishers.

A comprehensive licence from Access Copyright provides pre-authorized permission, freeing faculty to systematically select and share resources without concern for copyright infringement, while ensuring appropriate rewards for the creators and publishers whose works are used.

Despite the enormous volume of usage of content in the Access Copyright repertoire, today’s news means that, as of January 1, 2014, University of Toronto and Western University will end more than 20 years of cooperation with Canada’s writing and publishing community.

For faculty who are accustomed to operating under Access Copyright licences, the termination will be accompanied by disruption and uncertainty. Faculty may be asked to change the way they share materials, or to assume greater personal responsibility for copyright, or to select different types of materials.

“Nobody wins in this scenario,” said Levy.”That’s why Access Copyright will continue its work in pursuit of a sustainable interpretation of fair dealing that benefits all those who read, write, teach and learn. Copyright should work for everyone.”

There is much at stake for the future of Canada’s classrooms. Access Copyright believes in a strong and vibrant culture of writing, publishing, reading, teaching and learning in Canada and is exploring new ways to meet the needs of educators and students in this new digital learning environment.