A Writers’ Bill of Rights for the Digital Age

Writers and publishers are continuously facing a changing landscape.  The Writers’ Union of Canada has developed 12 core demands for the digital age. Interesting list for authors in negotiations with their publishers.

  1. Copyright legislation shall ensure the protection of intellectual property and appropriate compensation for rightsholders.
  2. Exceptions to copyright shall be minimized.
  3. The publisher shall split the net proceeds of ebook sales equally with the author.
  4. The author shall retain all e-rights not specifically granted to the publisher or producer and shall have the approval of any modifications made to the work.
  5. The publisher shall not exercise or sublicense ebook publishing rights without the express authorization of the author.
  6. When a book is out of print in print form, continuing sales in e-form shall not prevent a rights reversion to the author.
  7. For ebooks, the publisher in its contract shall replace the traditional “out of print” clause that triggers a rights reversion with a sales volume clause and/or a finite term of license.
  8. When rights revert, the publisher shall provide the author with the digital file of the book.
  9. The Public Lending Right Commission shall provide author payments for e-books and allot additional monies to this end.
  10. Libraries shall acquire digital copies of works in their collections only from rightsholders or their licensing agencies.
  11. Ebook retailers shall require the rightsholder’s permission for any free preview or download of an ework, and the rightsholder shall specify the maximum amount to be made available.
  12. Agents, publishers, aggregators, retailers, and libraries shall ensure that works in digital form will be well protected and will not be shared, trade, or sold outside the boundaries authorized by the contract.


  1. David Collier-Brown

    “Libraries shall acquire digital copies of works in their collections only from rightsholders or their licensing agencies” but not from “Agents, publishers, aggregators, retailers, and libraries”

    I wonder if they really mean to limit libraries in particular, are are simply sloppy in their drafting…

    –dave (“Using Samba” 1st. & 2nd. ed.) c-b

  2. Those are some pretty lofty demands. “Exceptions to copyright shall be minimized”? “The rightsholder shall specify the maximum amount to be made available”? Are they referring merely to publishing contracts or do they really believe that user rights such as fair dealing are somehow under their control?

  3. David Collier-Brown

    I suspect this is a wish-list, for purposes of negotiating more rights for publishers from the government, which is reintroducing last year’s copyright bill.


  4. The first items are so broad as to be meaningless, certainly not the slightest help in deciding on the issues presented in Bill C-32, like the availability of methods to break technical protection measures to make legal use of copyrighted materials.

    It’s not an impressive list- one imagines its being created at the end of a long, boozy, frustrated meeting. How would a publisher or legislator even begin to negotiate when presented with such a list? (There may be a few specific-enough items, but only a few.)

    Presumably the public lending right item is a way of saying ‘taxpayers, provide more money to pay us for lending e-books’. Why would they be counted separately from any book in any medium.