Canadian Copyright Challenge: Québec’s Copibec Class Action Receives Boost in Court

In News by Porter Anderson

Royalties payable by Canadian universities to authors, visual artists and their publishers are down almost 50 percent since 2012, says Copibec.

At Université Laval, the seminary at chapel Notre Dame. Image – iStockphoto; KR Blokhin

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘On Behalf of All Authors and Publishers’

Justice Simon Hébert in Montréal has rejected Université Laval‘s request for a suspension of the class action lawsuit led by Québec’s Copibec, a challenge to Canada’s Copyright Modernization Act of 2021.

Université Laval, as Publishing Perspectives reported in September, is the only university in Québec not cooperating with the licensing requirements of Copibec—which is the Société québécoise de gestion collective des droits de reproduction, a nonprofit collection agency established in 1998 to manage reproduction rights for copyright-protected works in both print and digital formats.

As in the case of Access Copyright v. York UniversityUniversité Laval is alleged to have infringed on copyright protections by claiming “fair dealing, or fair use, exemptions for educational institutions.”

Copibec’s court challenge was launched, “on behalf of all authors and publishers from Quebec, the rest of Canada and other countries.” Université Laval’s response was to request a suspension of the class act proceedings until Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal rules in the case Access Copyright v. York University.

Hébert ruled that the value of the York University appeal wouldn’t justify the wait.

In a statement released to the media on the ruling, the Copibec administration says, “Every year, thousands of copy log entries (content uses) are compiled by Copibec under the university licences.

“Most of those uses relate to pages in monographs (non-serial publications) rather than serial publications such as scientific journals. Content from books actually represents 79 percent of the uses reported annually by universities with licences. And of course, Copibec licences do not require users to report content reproduced under a separate publisher’s licence.”

Copibec reports that, “The royalty payable to authors, visual artists and their publishers by universities has been reduced by nearly 50 percent since 2012, falling to $13.50 per student for the 2017-2021 period. This substantial decline amply reflects evolving practices within universities, which are now benefiting from a very advantageous royalty rate for the millions of copies they make each year.”

And, having initiated work on the case in 2014, it would seem that Copibec’s leadership may have born the brunt of some criticism over the years for its handling of the situation.

The organization in its news release calls out “inaccurate information” that has been published after the release of the class action notice in September.

For example, the statement reads, “Copibec is not a ‘publishers’ cartel.’ Copibec is a non-profit social enterprise creaisd by the author and publisher community. Authors and publishers are represented equally on our board of directors, with a director from each category alternating as chair.”

“Danièle Simpson, from the Union des écrivaines et des écrivains du Québec (UNEQ) representing Québec writers, is Copibec chair this year. The very first agreements governing the content reproduced by educational institutions,” were in fact negotiated by UNEQ.”

The Copibec news is summed up in a prepared , “On behalf of the members of the class action, Copibec is pleased with the decision rejecting Laval University’s application for stay.

“A new deadline in this collective action whose first request dates from November 2014 has been avoided and Copibec hopes that hearings will take place as soon as possible.”

For more on the class action undertaken by Copibec, see the organization’s explainer here.

For more on the Canadian Copyright Modernization Act of 2012 (due this year for a five-year review), see more of our coverage at Publishing Perspectives:

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About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.