Dear Members –

A joint communique with CARL –  Canadians Need Unfettered Access To Government Publications In Face Of COVID-19
Chers Membres –
Un joint communiqué avec ABRC –  Les Canadiens ont besoin d’un accès sans entrave aux publications gouvernementales face à la COVID-19  

Rebecca Raven, Executive Director

Hon. Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage
Hon. Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry
Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos, President of the Treasury Board
September 21, 2020
Dear Ministers,
Canadians Need Unfettered Access To Government Publications In Face Of COVID-19
The Canadian Federation of Library Associations (CFLA) and the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) are calling on federal and provincial governments to make official publications more accessible to Canadians by assigning a Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC BY) to publicly available government information. We see this as a necessary and immediate response to COVID-19 and the appropriate default model for accessing government information.
Over the past months, as they faced unprecedented challenges caused by COVID-19, Canadians have relied on their governments for information related to the novel coronavirus and its impact. Now more than ever, unfettered access to taxpayer-funded government information is of fundamental importance to a democratic society and to the health of its citizens.
Unfortunately, pre-existing barriers and confusion related to Crown copyright have exacerbated the issues associated with accessing government information. For example, onerous and unnecessary permission requests to government departments are subject to extensive delays; existing digital content remains unnecessarily restricted; and questions about the control and dissemination of both print and digital works, as well as data collections, hamper their sharing and redistribution.
The appropriate action would be the assignment of a recognized open licence to publicly accessible government content.
Specifically, the retroactive and ongoing assignment of a Creative Commons licence1 to all publicly available government publications would help alleviate copyright-related
1 As with other jurisdictions, the Creative Commons Attribution licence (CC BY) as a default licence should be suitable in the majority of cases, with exceptions as needed for the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial licence (CC BY NC) and the appropriate application of Indigenous knowledge protocols. legal barriers that prevent preservation, reproduction, and redistribution of these important reports and parliamentary proceedings, many of which relate directly to health and safety issues. Such a licence would improve on the implementation of the existing Open Government Licence and mirror policy decisions in other jurisdictions including Australia and New Zealand.
A retroactive default CC BY licence would immediately open up hundreds of thousands of digital and print government publications, including tens of thousands that have already been digitized by members of the library partnership HathiTrust. This international non-profit organization is currently investing hundreds of staff hours to review Canadian government publications for copyright clearance — time and energy that would not be necessary with the assignment of a comprehensive, standard open licence. Assigning a recognized open licence would also resolve the constraints associated with the digitization and sharing of published material in library and archival collections.
Canadians deserve unfettered access to information produced by their government for the purpose of broad dissemination. A retroactive and continuing default CC BY licence would help move Canada closer to its aims with Open Government and to the re-examination of section 12 that was recently suggested by the Supreme Court of Canada2 and the parliamentary committee that reviewed the Copyright Act.3
Rebecca Raven Executive Director, CFLA-FCAB
Susan Haigh Executive Director, CARL-ABRC
For more information please contact:
Victoria Owen, Chair CFLA-FCAB Copyright Committee
2 Keatley Surveying Ltd. v. Teranet Inc. 2019 SCC 43.
3 Parliament of Canada. Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. Statutory Review of the Copyright Act. June 2019.