Last week, with the help of the group Balanced Copyright for Canada, I sent the following letter to all Members of Parliament and all Senators.
So, far, I've received quite a number of thoughtful responses from Conservative MPs (including the Prime Minister), BQ MPs, Liberal MPs and Senators. I have yet to receive a response from an NDP Member of Parliament -- not even from Charlie Angus who has been the most vocal Parliamentarian on copyright. I'm not sure what that means.
I look forward to the Bill C-32 committee hearings:
I'm a proudly Canadian professional writer. I've published three books with homegrown small presses; many of my poems, stories and novel excerpts first appeared in Canada's fine literary journals; and I've lost count of the number of freelance pieces I've sold to Canadian magazines and newspapers since I began my writing career over twenty years ago.
Over the course of those twenty years, I've also worked in the association and collective side of the cultural sector, running the Professional Writers Association of Canada, chairing the Book and Periodical Council, and volunteering countless hours of my time for such worthy organizations as Magazines Canada, The Writers Trust, The Writers Union, and The League of Canadian Poets. I now also work on the funding side, administering grants to writers, publishers and literary presenters.
I can't think of a better country than Canada in which to declare myself a writer. The passion and loyalty with which our writing and publishing community has built a unique Canadian literature is beautiful to behold. Yet today, I see our made-in-Canada industry at a crossroads. The potential market for Canadian books and Canadian writing is vast, but it is filled with an uncertainty that stalls our progress both at home and in valuable foreign markets.
The source of that uncertainty is copyright – more specifically, our long wait for meaningful copyright reform that acknowledges the unique challenges and opportunities of the digital world. Bill C-32 is the third kick at the digital copyright can in the last decade and, while I welcome its introduction, I'm concerned that it simply doesn't do enough to help secure reasonable market expectations for Canadian artists and their industry partners.
As the debate on C-32 continues, you will hear a lot about new user rights, new consumer protections, new user exceptions to copyright, and fair consumer dealings under the law. Let's be clear. Canadian copyright is a law for Canadian creators. It exists to give reasonable protection to the creative work and intellectual property of Canadians, and to secure fair markets within the knowledge economy. We must not destabilize these markets. All new consumer exceptions should be thoroughly examined for potential harm to creators, and established creative markets such as education must be protected.
Those who have framed copyright reform as a fight between consumers and creators do a terrible disservice to Canadian culture as a whole. Canadians are recognized worldwide for our creativity and cultural products, and each and every Canadian citizen is a potential professional creator.
Canada's cultural industries are positioned to help lead the world in the digital marketplace. Fears or suggestions that we intend to lock away our content or harm consumers just don't make sense. We're simply asking for a law that is serious about protecting our intellectual property from piracy and the intentional infringement that destroys legitimate markets for our work.
I ask that when you engage in discussion about amending Bill C-32 you do so with the Canadian creator in mind.
John Degen, author
(Peace Tower photo - and a beautiful one at that - courtesy of tekdiver on Flickr - licensed under a CC Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic licence)