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Copyright, HST and the BC Arts Council
August 5th, 2009
Within the last thirty days several important announcements have been made by federal and provincial governments that will have long-lasting effects on book publishers.
It has been twelve years since the Canadian Copyright law was last amended and eight years since there has been a national discussion on the subject but that is about to be rectified as the federal government launches a series of roundtables in major cities across the country. A website where citizens may post their comments and invitations to file submissions on this important topic will also be part of the information gathering process leading to major reforms to the Copyright Act in the Fall. Copyright reform is a thorny matter where the interests of fair access need to be balanced by compensation for creators and publishers in a world where technological advances have made information instantly sharable and in which formats to enjoy content expand daily. The Association of Canadian Publishers has been invited to represent the views of the industry to an upcoming roundtable.
If copyright reform is arcane, the proposed Harmonized Sales Tax recently announced by the BC provincial government is pretty straightforward, or is it? The HST, which will be introduced July 1, 2010, contains various elements that will have an impact on the book industry. On the positive side, books, thankfully, are on the proposed list of items for which point-of-sale rebates will apply. This is good news for consumers, educators, and for our industry. The bad news is that publishers will now have to pay for goods that were previously tax exempt, such as printing, and services, such as book design or illustration, that previously had no PST applied. It is still unclear whether the additional 7% on many costs associated with our business will provide an input tax credit as they do on the GST.
In further provincial news, the proposed but as yet unconfirmed 40% cut to the BC Arts Council in the next budget has resulted in cries of outrage and despair from the arts community. Our new Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts, Kevin Kreuger, in a meeting with the Alliance for Arts and Culture, reassured the community that “both he and the Premier are very committed to the arts” although he couldn’t confirm that supplementary funds would be found again, as they were for this fiscal year, to keep arts funding intact. It is crucial that ABPBC members let the minister know the importance of BC Arts Council funding to the production and dissemination of Canadian authored books. It is also critical that members of the public let our elected officials know how books contribute to our lives, our education, and our sense of who we are as British Columbians and Canadians. It is wise public policy to support the arts not only for the cultural contribution they make but also for economic reasons. The Arts and Culture Industry in BC generates more than 80,000 jobs and $5.2 billion annually. Let the minister know how you feel about BC books and our diverse and dynamic cultural community. Visit the Alliance for Arts and Culture for more information on the subject.