A Shared Letter to Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly
Dear Minister Joly,
We are Canada’s musicians, songwriters, composers, music producers, authors, poets, playwrights, film composers, actors, directors and visual artists – a creative class of artists and entrepreneurs that has defined this country. We’ve done so through creativity, innovation and hard work. Yet economically we’re worse off today than we were in the 1990s.
We’re a diverse, passionate, proudly Canadian collection of innovative storytellers with roots around the world. Our work tells uniquely Canadian stories to the world and global stories to Canadians. It is consumed in greater volume than ever before. It can be accessed anywhere, at any time, simply by opening an app on a phone.
Yet while some of us have found success, too many others are being squeezed out of the marketplace. The middle class artist is being eliminated from the Canadian economy. Full-time creativity is becoming a thing of the past.
Canada’s creative professionals have led Canada in the digital shift, but we struggle to earn a livelihood from it. It’s not from lack of trying. We’ve digitized our work and mastered the internet. We’ve become social media directors for our projects. We connect directly with our fan bases, and monetize everything that we can. So why are more and more of us being forced to abandon creative work? And why do Canada’s youth increasingly seek career paths outside the creative sector?
The carefully designed laws and regulations of the 1990s were intended to ensure that both Canadian creators and technological innovators would benefit from digital developments. We hoped that new technology would enrich the cultural experiences for artists and consumers alike. Unfortunately, this has not happened. Instead, our work is increasingly used to monetize technology without adequately remunerating its creators. Income and profit from digital use of our work flow away from the creative class to a concentrated technology industry. Allowing this trend to continue will result in dramatically fewer Canadians being able to afford to “tell Canadian stories,” much less earn a reasonable living from doing so.
We will continue to do what we can to succeed in the evolving digital landscape, but we need the help of Canada’s government right now. Canada has two major opportunities to stand up for creators over the next year: your Department’s ongoing cultural policy review and the five-year mandated review of the Copyright Act in 2017. We know you understand the cultural significance of our work; we hope you also see its value and crucial place in Canada’s economy. We ask that you put creators at the heart of future policy.
Dan Pontefract, Author and Poet + hundreds of other Canadian creators
cc The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau P.C., M.P., Prime Minister of Canada