Dear Honourable Ministers Clement and Moore,
Re: Submission to the Public Consultations on Copyright Reform
How do Canada’s copyright laws affect you?
According to a recent study out of York University, copyright fees account for approximately 12% of a visual artists’ income. The income potential of visual artists is much smaller than artists in other disciplines because we generally do not produce multiples and are usually the creators of a singular, original object.
Recent statistics show that the average income of a visual artist is $13,976 which is $6,824 below the Statistics Canada low-income cut-off. By comparison, writers and performing artists have the ability to disseminate mass quantities of their copyright materials through books, cds, dvds, etc., and are thus able to receive royalty payments for as long as copies of their work sells, and as their fame grows. In addition, the rate of compliance with the Exhibition Right is low because there is little incentive for exhibitors to pay the associated fees.
What sorts of copyright changes do you believe would best foster innovation and creativity in Canada?
• Amending of Canadian Copyright Act to include droit de suite, or resale right
• Affording photographers, printmakers and portrait artists the same rights as other visual and media artists
• Improving compliance and recognition of the Reproduction Right
Improving compliance and recognition of the Exhibition Right
• Extending protection and reaffirming creators’ Moral Rights
• Reinforcing and expanding the licensing responsibilities of copyright collectives in the digital environment
• Ratifying the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty (WCT), which includes allowances, where necessary, to protect both the rights of users and creators
What kinds of changes would best position Canada as a leader in the global, digital economy?
While the proposed changes in Bill C-61 addressed most of Canada’s international obligations, it did not include a Resale Right, which was included in the Berne Convention to which Canada is a signatory. Fifty-four countries world-wide have already signed on to the Resale Right including, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and the state of California. Far from being a leader, Canada risks lagging behind the rest of the world.
The Resale Right would entitle me to receive a percentage royalty payment from all subsequent public sales of my work. It is common for visual art to appreciate in value over time, as my reputation grows.
Canada’s Aboriginal artists in particular are losing out on the tremendous profits being made on their work in the secondary market. My colleagues living in isolated northern communities tolerate impoverished conditions, while their work dramatically increases in value. This same situation motivated the Australian government to consider 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 to the Commonwealth Bank for a mere $1200. The artist and his estate received nothing from the recent sale.
Once established in Canada, I would be able to benefit from reciprocal arrangements with other countries where the Resale Right exists and where that artist’s work may be resold. For example, if a British artist’s work is resold in France, that artist is able to benefit from the Resale Right there, because it has been adopted in both countries. However, if that same artist’s work sells in Canada, they are not able to receive a royalty here because we currently do not have a Resale Right.