Copyright needs to be enforced. Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has argued we should follow Australia’s approach and he is right, writes Jack Mintz in the Financial Post. Below is an excerpt from the article, which can be read in full here.
By Jack Mintz, March 1, 2021
Every year I receive a federal cheque for the use of my published books by Canadian libraries. The amount, after payment of hefty income taxes, is no more than several months’ supply of Tim Hortons coffee. But I do appreciate recognition of the principle that I should be compensated for my copyright.
As a “content-provider,” I think of this cheque every time I read about the tussle now taking place between Australia and the massive technology companies, Google and Facebook. Australia is bringing in legislation requiring digital technology companies to compensate news outlets for the use of their content. The legislation is in response to the shift of advertising revenue from broadcasters and publishers to internet platforms that so far have not had to pay the costs of creating content. In response, Facebook has clumsily cut off news information to Australians, raising significant concerns about the big tech firms’ economic power, not just in Australia but around the world.
Before I jump on the bandwagon accusing Facebook and Google of predatory practices, it must be remembered that the media creating the content can protect its copyright by putting up walls to control access. Broadcasting programs and newspapers can be made available only to those buying a subscription. Although cutting off access in this way does compensate creators for their investments, it also both limits the availability of valuable information and reduces media advertising revenues, since fewer readers means fewer ad dollars. Without ad revenues, some new outlets might not survive, leading to industry consolidation and, eventually, less content.