Canadian writers, visual artists and publishers lose the ability to have their rights and interests protected as federal government fails to deliver on its promise to fix Canada’s publishing marketplace

Access Copyright’s Board of Directors has made the difficult decision to initiate a significant downsizing and restructuring of the organization due to the federal government’s decade-long inaction in fixing Canada’s publishing marketplace.

TORONTO [July 13, 2023] – Due to changes in fair dealing provisions in the Copyright Act, since 2012, Canadian writers, visual artists, and publishers - an indispensable part of Canada’s culture - have been deprived of over $200 million in unpaid royalties under tariffs certified by the Copyright Board of Canada.

This staggering figure is among the many impacts, including job losses and several educational publishers stepping away from the K-12 or post-secondary markets, that have hit Canadian creators and publishers since amendments to Canada’s Copyright Act were enacted in 2012.
The mass, systemic free copying of creators’ works by Canada’s education sector outside of Quebec since 2012 has led to Access Copyright’s total distributions to rightsholders dropping by 79%.

It has also led to the start of the hollowing out of Access Copyright - a key piece of Canada’s cultural infrastructure that Canadian creators and publishers rely on to be fairly compensated for the use of their work.

“The abandonment of Canadian creators and publishers is a blight on our country, and an international embarrassment,” says John Degen, CEO of The Writers’ Union of Canada. “When the Copyright Act was amended to include a fair-dealing exception for education, the Liberals in opposition then expressed deep concern that it was likely to be exploited at the expense of creators. They were right; that’s exactly what happened. The government has promised to fix the gaps in the Act many times, but we are still waiting for meaningful change. In the meantime, a key market has disappeared and, with it, countless Canadian stories.”

The government’s 2022 federal budget promise “to ensure a sustainable educational publishing industry, including fair remuneration for creators and copyright holders, as well as a modern and innovative marketplace that can efficiently serve copyright users” was a direct acknowledgment of the harm that the 2012 changes to the Copyright Act have caused and the need for legislative action to repair it.
Creators nationally continue to wait for the government to make good on its commitment, and the marketplace for a viable Canadian educational publishing industry continues to dry up.

“The regrettable, albeit predictable, news that Access Copyright’s Board is initiating a restructuring of the organization means that we are down to the wire for the federal government to make good on its promise to repair our broken marketplace,” said Jack Illingworth, executive director of the Association of Canadian Publishers. “We can’t wait any longer for the government to do what is needed to support those we rely on to tell our stories.”

“The news that Access Copyright is downsizing is devastating to Canadian literary publishers, especially as there are solutions at the ready that would meaningfully address the current ambiguity in fair dealing and add clarity to fair compensation for the use of creators’ works," said Laura Rock Gaughan, executive director of the Literary Press Group of Canada. “The federal government must stand up for Canadian creators and publishers. We are out of time.”

“While Quebec’s educational institutions, unlike the rest of Canada, continue to be licensed, creators and publishers in the province have not been immune to the devastating economic impact of the 2012 changes to the Copyright Act,” said Christian Laforce, general manager of Copibec. “We join others across Canada in urging the federal government to address this long-standing injustice before it is too late.”

Access Copyright continues to urge the federal government to work with the organization and the sector to prevent its collapse and avoid the harm that is on the horizon for the writers, visual artists and publishers it represents.

About Access Copyright

For over 30 years, Access Copyright has facilitated content use for educational and professional purposes. Access Copyright has helped people make customized use of published materials combined with an assurance that the original creators and publishers also benefit, so that they can continue creating new and innovative works. This is vitally important to a strong Canadian culture and to all who rely on quality publications.

For general media inquiries:
Amy Cormier, Head of Communications & Marketing,


Also, read The Writers' Union of Canada's take on the issue: