Canada Calls for AI Input With Copyright Needs Still Unmet

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Ottawa is working through an AI inquiry while Canada’s publishing industry is ‘still waiting for ministers Pascale St-Onge and François-Philippe Champagne to honor their commitment.’

Image – Getty iStockphoto: Isma Gilov

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

‘Canada … Unfairly Depriving Rights Holders’
Although the Canadian government still has not addressed the 11-year copyright fiasco triggered by its 2012 “Copyright Modernization Act“—reportedly costing publishers and authors more than CA$200 million (US148,273 million)—Ottawa has issued an 18-page call for “Consultation on Copyright in the Age of Generative Artificial intelligence.”

Perhaps the legislative effort taken by the European Union to reach its AI Act, agreed by European Parliament negotiators in mid-December is a bigger prompt to the Canadian ministries than more than a decade of pleas for attention from their professional book publishing community.

Clearly is in no mood to allow their government to jump out of the frying pan of the nation’s neglected copyright crisis into the fire of the new questions on AI, Canada’s English- and French-language publishing professionals on Monday (January 15) jumped at the chance to remind their cultural and industry minsters that they have yet to amend the country’s internationally embarrassing Copyright Act—something these organizations point out the ministers pledged to do in the nation’s 2022 federal budget.

In August and in November, organizations, councils, associations, guilds, and federations—representing more than 50,000 publishers, writers, and visual artists—sent a single demand to St-Onge: fix the 2012 Canadian Copyright Modernization Act. Criticized by the world publishing community led by the International Publishers Association (IPA), the prolonged crisis has become easily the most glaring anomaly in copyright protection in world publishing.

In a joint news release, these publishing-industry bodies have highlight both issues, AI and their long-undermined copyright regime in educational literature. They write:

“As part of the ongoing public consultation on generative artificial intelligence and copyright, book industry associations are reminding the Canadian government of the crucial importance of regulating the responsible development of artificial intelligence and ensuring effective copyright protection.

“Copyright is an exclusive right of human creators. This should not be changed.”

“The book industry and the entire cultural community emphasize that transparency is essential to the development of a fair and safe AI ecosystem. Otherwise, generative AI models will continue to develop in an opaque, unfair, and undemocratic manner, without respecting the rights of creators.

“They also stress that copyright is an exclusive right of human creators. Existing copyright legislation protects human creativity and originality, by virtue of requiring the exercise of skill and judgment to obtain copyright in a work. This should not be changed to grant copyright protection to AI-generated products or to allow copyrighted works to train models without permission.

“The book industry is still waiting for Pascale St-Onge and François-Philippe Champagne to honor their commitment to amend the Copyright Act.”

“Beyond AI: A Law That Needs Reform: For the book industry, Canada needs to move quickly to close existing loopholes in its legislation so that it stops unfairly depriving rights holders of legitimate revenues from the use of works in certain educational institutions. This priority is supported by the Coalition for the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and by the international book federations, all of which are outraged that Canada is not meeting its international obligations to authors.

“Following another report from the House of Commons also supporting this priority, the book industry is still waiting for the minister of Canadian Heritage, Pascale St-Onge, and the minister of innovation, science and industry, François-Philippe Champagne, to honor their commitment to amend the Copyright Act so that authors and publishers can receive their fair share of the use of their published works.”

The Publishing Bodies Addressing Ottawa

These are the organizations, agencies, and other groups leveraging the Canadian government’s call for input on AI to signal the unfinished business of their losses under Canada’s copyright legislation:

  • Access Copyright
  • Association nationale des éditeurs de livres (ANEL)
  • Association of Canadian Publishers (ACP)
  • Association of English Language Publishers of Quebec (AELAQ)
  • Canadian Authors Association (CAA)
  • Canadian Publishers’ Council (CPC)
  • Copibec
  • Literary Press Group of Canada (LPG)
  • Regroupement des éditeurs franco-canadiens (REFC)
  • Union des écrivaines et des écrivains québécois (UNEQ)
  • The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC)
The Canadian Government’s Request for AI Input

A preliminary inquiry that the government says comes from an earlier consultation in 2021 led to a request for input from stakeholders by Monday (January 15).

“The government is calling for additional evidence from stakeholders to help guide consideration of whether and how to amend the Copyright Act to provide more clarity in the marketplace.”Government of Canada

The government lists three familiar areas of concern in the topic as:

  • “Text and data mining—i.e., whether any clarification is needed on how the copyright framework applies to the use of copyright-protected works and other subject matter (e.g., a
    performance or sound recording) in the training of AI systems
  • “Authorship and ownership of works generated by AI—i.e., how the copyright framework should apply to AI-assisted and AI-generated works
  • “Infringement and liability regarding AI—e.g., who are the persons liable when AI-generated works infringes copyright-protected works”

And in its newly ended period of requested input, it asks for perspectives on a list of logical questions, also now quite familiar, for considerations of copyright act amendments:

  • “What would more clarity around copyright and TDM [text and data mining] in Canada mean for the AI industry and the creative industry?
  • “Are TDM activities being conducted in Canada? Why is it the case or not?
  • “Are rights holders facing challenges in licensing their works for TDM activities? If so, what is the nature and extent of those challenges?
  • “What kind of copyright licenses for TDM activities are available, and do these licenses meet the needs of those conducting TDM activities?
  • “If the government were to amend the act to clarify the scope of permissible TDM activities, what should be its scope and safeguards? What would be the expected impact of such an exception on your industry and activities?
  • “Should there be any obligations on AI developers to keep records of or disclose what copyright-protected content was used in the training of AI systems?
  • “What level of remuneration would be appropriate for the use of a given work in TDM activities?
  • “Are there TDM approaches in other jurisdictions that could inform a Canadian consideration of this issue?”

In its discussion of these issues—particularly in the use by large language models of copyrighted material for training—the government’s call for input is clearly aware of actions in Europe, the United States, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Japan, Singapore, and elsewhere, especially in the question of exceptions that might be levied on text and data mining.

In an ironic point, the document notes that in 2021, “a mere 12 submissions discussed [questions of AI and copyright] and did so only very briefly.” Obviously, the response this time can be expected to be far more robust.

And Canada’s publishing industry leadership appears to be working to call the prior question of lost revenues and intense controversy around the copyright act before the newer issues of AI’s implications are allowed to distract the ministries’ attention.

A Programming Note: London Book Fair

At London Book Fair, March 12 to 14, Glenn Rollans, a former president of the Association of Canadian Publishers (ACP) and president and publisher of Brush Education, will join us when Publishing Perspectives moderates a Main Stage discussion, Copyright and AI: A Global Discussion of Machines, Humans, and the Law, an advanced-level conversation exploring the risks and opportunities within the rapidly evolving ecosystem in an era of artificial intelligence.

Glenn Rollans

The session will also feature:

That’s set for 2:15 to 3 p.m. on the Main Stage on London Book Fair’s opening day, March 12.

More from Publishing Perspectives on artificial intelligence is here, more on copyright is here, more on the Canadian book publishing market is here, and more on its Copyright Modernization Act is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the International Publishers Association’s world media partner.

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.


  1. “reportedly costing publishers and authors more than CA$200 million (US148,273 million)”

    It would be useful if we could work through some real numbers and be pointed toward what the assumptions are when Canadian publisher and author groups throw around these kinds of numbers. Most often I see that they pick Access Copyright’s most profitable year (2012) and assume every year after that should have been more profitable. Due to a series of lawsuits that were resolved in 2012, money that was held in escrow for several years was all released to Access Copyright in 2012. Fantasy numbers based on 2012 aren’t helpful to anyone.

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