the book room: novelist, John Degen interviews other writers, and talks about copyright way too much
John Degen, novelist and Executive Director of The Writers Union of Canada, recently engaged in a back-and-forth of the value of copyrights to creators. The discussion was precipitated by a question Degen had been asked on developments in Canadian copyright law. As described on The Writing Platform, “In Canada, a small tweak to copyright legislation resulted in a large loss of income for many writers when the principle of ‘fair dealing’ was extended to include education and interpreted by educational institutions to mean unlimited copying of relatively large portions of works.’ Degen summarized the importance of copyright to creative professionals as, “If you create it, you own it. If someone wants to use what you own, there needs to be a discussion.” He later elaborated on his point in a series of tweets, including one that compared an attack on copyright as a land grab.
This lead to a response from an academic in Finland, who asked whether copyright, as other legal concepts, should “develop and evolve” – a point of view that Degen describes as, “I’m not attacking your rights; I’m merely questioning whether or not they actually need to exist.” In the resulting Twitter exchange, Degen referenced the change in “fair dealing,” describing how a push by academics in Canada led to the elimination of collective licensing of written works for education, and resulting in a loss of income for writers. In the meantime, the price of the educational materials and tuition – ostensibly the reason for the law change – continued to rise. The result, Degen wrote, was “an attack on workers’ rights, creative livelihoods, on academic freedom, on students.”