In May of this year, Canadian Heritage Minister Bev Oda delivered the keynote address to the Professional Writers Association of Canada. Oda acknowledged that "that freelance writers are one of the groups most concerned with Canada’s copyright policy." While Oda's appearance at the PWAC event might be seen as evidence that she is sympathetic with the concerns of Canadian writers, action speaks louder than words. Last week, Oda released her response to a Senate report on the Canadians news media. One of the Senate recommendations dealt specifically with copyright and freelance writers:
That the Minister of Canadian Heritage examine whether there is any abuse of author's rights in the requirements imposed by universal contracts and, if so, explore amendments to the Copyright Act.
The issue of freelance journalists' rights and the re-use of their works is complex. Since it is common practice for journalists to licence their copyright by contract to newspapers and magazines, this issue goes beyond the copyright framework to include contract law, which falls under provincial jurisdiction. That said, the Government does not intend to consider this issue at this time.
Oda's decision to ignore concerns about the potential abuse of author's rights coincides with a Hill Times op-ed this week that highlights how she is now avoiding even hearing about the concerns of many Canadian creator groups. The Appropriation Arts group, which represents more than 600 Canadian artists, had this to say about their ability to gain access to the Minister:
Despite the size and prominent members in this organization, representatives for Appropriation Art Coalition have repeatedly been denied a meeting with the minister of Heritage over the course of many months. Yet these representatives (including myself) have met with all the Heritage critics as well as an adviser from Industry Canada.
While the stakeholders representing user interests have never had any reason to believe their concerns were being heard by the Minister of Canadian Heritage, it now appears that Canadian artists and writers may find themselves facing the same predicament.