Thank you for the opportunity to speak. I'm Christina de Castell. I'm the Acting Chief Librarian at Vancouver Public Library.
I'd like to speak to you today about how the digital landscape has changed public libraries and the way that the Copyright Act supports this transformation.
Our library spends $5 million annually on books and materials for loan. We buy about 80% of Canadian publications. We buy most of those in multiple copies, in digital and print form. We spend about 30% of this $5 million on digital content including e-books, research databases, streaming film, and learning tools. The vast majority of this content is licensed on an annual basis. We rebuy the same content from the same suppliers every year. This is typical of urban public libraries in Canada.
Self-publishing in the e-book format is dramatically changing the e-book market. In 2017, we launched a self-published author collection. We bought more than 200 titles directly from Vancouver area authors. Overall, about 25% of use at Vancouver Public Library is of digital content. Its use is growing by about 20% per year in many libraries, although the commercial market for e-books has stalled.
Public library users relying on this digital content may be unable to make use of the fair dealing exceptions because of restrictions that are placed on licences from library suppliers. Libraries may be unable to make use of exceptions on behalf of patrons or for interlibrary loan or preservation for the same reason. Licences override exceptions that are provided within our Copyright Act. Licence terms are complex, varied, and difficult for non-lawyers to interpret.
Protecting copyright exceptions from being taken away by licences, as the U.K. and Ireland—among others—have done, would address this problem. This would provide clarity for libraries and their users.
Libraries like ours are also supporting authors and the creation of new content. We deliver thousands of programs annually that support reading and creativity. Teaching digital creation is an important part of our programming. We do this through our lab with recording studios and computers with specialized software. We offered resources to more than 10,000 creators last year. The non-commercial user-generated content exception at section 29.21 supports this type of learning environment, as does the copyright term of life plus 50 years that ensures a robust public domain.
Finally, I'd like to emphasize the continued importance of fair dealing exceptions in public libraries. Many of our visitors are in circumstances where they cannot afford to buy books that they need to understand health concerns, learn about Canadian culture, explore new careers, or support their children's education.
The ability to make copies under the fair dealing exceptions for research and private study, particularly, are vital to the activities that happen in public libraries to help all our members of our community to reach their full potential.