Thank you for inviting us here today.
My name is Frédérique Couette, and I am the executive director of Copibec, the collective society established by Quebec authors and publishers.
A not-for-profit organization, Copibec grants licences and remits royalties to authors, freelance journalists, creators and publishers. Each year, we manage millions of traditional and digital uses, which would be too complicated to manage individually. Collective administration is the exercise of copyright and related rights by organizations acting in the interest and on behalf of the rights holders.
The Union des écrivaines et des écrivains québécois will tell you about the economic situation of Quebec writers. Only 10% to 15% of them are able to make a living from their writing. In a market as small as ours, copyright revenue from sources other than book sales is particularly important for both authors and their publishers. Compliance with copyright rules is essential to ensure that authors can continue their creative work and that the publishing industry can survive. The $200 million that Copibec has remitted to authors and publishers during its 20 years of existence has supported the continuity of an innovative cultural sector.
In the review of the Copyright Act that led to the 2012 amendments, we warned MPs and the government about the negative effects of introducing too many exceptions in the act and adding the word “education” to the fair dealing exception. Unfortunately, we can only conclude that our fears were, for the most part, well founded.
Representatives of the education sector stated that it was merely a clarification and that licences would continue to be purchased. Yet, in the month following the enactment of the amendments, Quebec universities asked to renegotiate their licences with Copibec and demanded an 18% reduction in the annual royalty per student. Since then, every renegotiation of agreements with Quebec universities and CEGEPs has resulted in a further decrease in royalties. Consequently, the annual royalty has declined by nearly 50% for each university student—from $25.50 in 2012 to $13.50 in 2017—and by 15% for each CEGEP student.
Outside Quebec, universities, colleges and education departments and ministries terminated their licences with Access Copyright in January 2013 and forced rights holders into a spiral of legal actions. The institutions are appropriating the right to free, systematic, institutionalized reproduction of excerpts of creative works for which they previously paid licence fees to the collective society.
In June 2014, Université Laval followed suit and refused to renew its licence with Copibec, forcing rights holders to launch a class action. Fortunately, Copibec and the university recently came to an amicable agreement that provided a favourable outcome for all parties involved.
Over the last five years, there has been a proliferation of lawsuits and a steady erosion of licence revenue due to pressure from the education sector. For example, since 2012, our authors, creators and publishers have seen a 23% drop in the royalty paid for each page copied by the universities, even though Copibec has kept its administration fees unchanged at 15%.
The impact of this steady decline in collective administration revenue is very significant, as nearly 75% of the licence revenue distributed by Copibec comes from the education sector. Quebec's authors, creators and publishers are most affected by this, since the majority of the 72 million copies reported to us annually are copies of excerpts from Québécois works.
Our authors and creators are feeling the brunt of the decrease in collective administration revenue, as their already precarious situation and their financial capacity to do creative work are being further eroded with each dip in revenue from one of the links in the copyright chain. Our publishing houses are also being compromised, since 80% of the annual reports relate to reproductions from books, and the associated revenue accounts for 18% of their net profits, on average.
Collective administration royalties paid by Copibec make a significant contribution to keeping our cultural journals and publishing houses afloat, so that they can continue to tell our stories and provide educational content that meets the specific requirements of our school system.
Let's not kid ourselves: what's at stake here is the dissemination of our culture and our conception of our cultural heritage.
Rights holders have modified their collective society to bring it into line with the new needs of the consumers of creative works. In response to the advent of digital reproduction media, they asked Copibec to manage additional rights for uses such as classroom projection, digitization and instructional platforms.
We also offer users the ability to make copyright payments online and have accelerated the processing of data we receive and payments to rights holders.
In partnership with publishers, we have developed the DONA service, which allows institutions to acquire a work on a digital platform designed to meet the needs of students with perceptual disabilities.
In 2014, Copibec and its partners also created SAMUEL to provide schools and CEGEPs in Quebec as well as francophone communities outside Quebec with access to a wide variety of high-quality French-language content through a digitized content platform.
We continue innovating to promote local culture, make art more accessible, and increase availability and remuneration.
With regard to rights holder remuneration models, collective administration is an integral part of the revenue sources of authors and publishers. It is an efficient, versatile, internationally recognized model that assures cultural diversity and availability. It is part of a drive toward modernity and the future of a society that invests in its culture in the digital era.
In this regard, Quebec's collective administration experience, despite the regrettable decline in royalties, provides an effective model that has evolved in response to users' needs without ever losing sight of the importance of combining availability of works with remuneration for their use. In this model, annual royalties paid for the use of works have always been very affordable. For university students in Quebec, they make up, on average, less than 0.5% of their total annual tuition fees. For universities, they are less than 0.1% of the annual operating budget. Paying royalties for reproducing excerpts of creative works has never jeopardized the Canadian education system or resulted in excessive debt loads for students.
Although reform of the Copyright Board does not fall directly within this committee's purview, I would express our deep disappointment with the fact that the proposed reforms for modernizing the Copyright Board do not deal with the harmonization of damages awarded to collective societies.
The review of the Copyright Act, in which you are participating, will be a lengthy process, and during that time, Quebec's authors and creators are not receiving the royalties to which they are entitled for the extensive use of their works by educational institutions outside Quebec. This situation persists even though tariffs have been certified by the Copyright Board and the Federal Court has handed down a decision clearly establishing that those institutions' copying policies are unfair.
This crucial issue must be resolved with an amendment to the act. In the meantime, we urge the federal government to act now to encourage the restoration of healthy, lasting and necessary relationships between the authors of literary works, through their collective societies, and the education sector.
I conclude my presentation by quoting the following passage from the 2017 Creative Canada Policy Framework concerning the Copyright Act: “A well-functioning copyright regime should empower creators to leverage the value of their creative work, while users continue to enjoy access to a wide range of diverse cultural content.” Collective administration is perfectly consistent with these objectives and strikes the difficult balance between access and remuneration.