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Copyright changes a mixed bag for visual artists

Ottawa, Tuesday, June 8th, 2010 – Visual artists are happy to see progress being made in the copyright bill tabled last week in parliament but have some concerns that the proposal to expand fair dealing to educational use in Bill C32 could be costly for visual artists. Bill C32 has also missed the opportunity to create a Resale Right as has been done in 56 other countries.

A handful of recommendations made by CARFAC, the national association of visual artists and their Quebec partner, RAAV, have been put forward in the bill including extending rights to photographers and portrait artists and the implementation of the World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty.

CARFAC and RAAV are also happy to see that an exception has been added for parody and satire. The use of copyrighted work has long been an important part of the creative process for some artists and in certain cases the market has failed to meet their legitimate access needs.

On the other hand, adding a fair dealing exception for education purposes could jeopardize small but important income sources for visual artists. The lack of clarity about what is considered “fair” means that artists may need to go to court to determine what their rights are – something that many can not afford.

“Everyone else in the education system is paid for their work, why would you single out creators as the only ones not to be paid?” said Gerald Beaulieu, CARFAC president. “It’s a complicated piece of legislation so we will be looking into just what it will mean for visual artists in the coming weeks.”

What is disappointing is that Bill C32 has missed the opportunity to implement a Resale Right – an important tool used all over the world for visual artists to share in the wealth they create. A Resale Right would see artists receive a percentage royalty payment from the resale of their work. The Australian government recently adopted the Resale Right after the late Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri’s painting, Warlugulong, sold for $2.4 million in 2007, thirty years after the artist sold the work for a mere $1200. Once established in Canada, artists would be able to benefit from reciprocal arrangements with other countries where the Resale Right exists. Canada’s Aboriginal and senior artists in particular are losing out on the profits being made on their work in the secondary market.

While the public debate about copyright has centred on the fight between heavy handed corporate rights holders and users, copyright was originally designed to encourage creativity by providing a source of income for creators. As such, CARFAC and RAAV encourage their members not to sign their rights away to galleries or corporations.

“Copyright is an important part of our ongoing fight to help artists earn a living wage,” said Lise Létourneau, president of RAAV, “CARFAC and RAAV will continue to fight to extend the rights of artists until they are treated fairly.”


CARFAC (The Canadian Artists’ Representation/le Front des artists canadiens) is the national association of Canada’s professional visual and media artists. CARFAC defends artists’ rights through advocacy and professional development and produces a schedule of artists’ fees that is widely recognized as the national standard. The Status of the Artist Act empowers CARFAC to negotiate with national organizations on behalf of all visual artists in Canada.

About RAAV

RAAV (le Regroupement des artistes en arts visuels du Quebec) is designated under Quebec’s legislation (the Act Respecting the Professional Status of the Artists in the Visual Arts, Arts and Crafts and Literature and their Contracts with Promoters) to represent visual artists in Quebec. It works at promoting and defending Quebec’s Visual Artists’ rights and interest.

For more information contact:

Melissa Gruber
Communications Coordinator
CARFAC National

Kristian Clarke
Executive Director
CARFAC Ontario
Cell: 647-261-8932

For media enquiries outside of business hours, call 613-791-6411.