Friday, June 3, 2011

Access Copyright acknowledges the debate

Access Copyright posted a release on its website responding to the Writers' Union resolution of next week.  There is a breakthrough here:  Access Copyright acknowledges, perhaps for the first time, that "The distribution of revenues ...  has always been contentious." and  "the debate is ongoing."  (Oddly, however, parts of its statement suggest Access Copyrigh thinks it is debating a "Mr. Geist" rather than the Writers' Union)

In the statement, Access Copyright defends its revenue distributions with its usually bewildering explanations of its policies. It even claims to have implemented the Friedland Report of 2007, which recommended sweeping changes to distribution processes -- and which the publishers' caucus vetoed even before the final text of the report had been received.

Interestingly Access Copyright makes no response to the other half of the Writers' Union's declaration:  that key differences in the copyright interests of publishers and creators will always prevent Access Copyright from fully and effectively representing creators’ copyright interests.  More on that to follow.

Update, June 13:  My friend Penney Kome, who is Co-Chair of the Board of Directors of Access Copyright,  sent the following comment some days ago.  I regret the delay in publishing it, as we are still working out comment procedures for the website.

How bizarre to say the publishers "vetoed" the 2007 Friedland report when in fact Friedland did submit the final version and the Board spent two years working through the report's 23 recommendations and dealing with every one of them. The contract override is gone, all the splits are now 50-50 or 100-0. The Board did reject Friedland's recommendation to split royalties on Out-of-Print works 50-50, and voted unanimously that the creator should receive 100% as is current practice. Friedland recommended that distribution of creator repertoire should be weighted so that those who publish more should receive more, and Access adapted the CLA Payback system to Canada. Access posted the Board's response to every recommendation online. The result may not have been what you wanted or anticipated, but the report was neither vetoed nor ignored. Why would you post information that is demonstrably untrue?
Penney is mistaken in suggesting I have knowingly posted untruths.  The world is a complicated place (as Access Copyright often demonstrates), and well-meaning people frequently disagree without untruths being the cause. In this case, her account of the board's work does not show mine to be untrue.  The publishers' caucus did reject Friedland's report as soon as they saw the draft report, and two years of the board's subsequent work did not change that.  Professor Friedland's Report called for a fundamental reorientation of distribution policies, but the changes actually made (some of which Penney lists above) included only those that publishers and staff were willing to accept. Those fell far short of significantly reorienting the division of revenues between publishers and creators.  At a recent Writers Union workshop, Access Copyright lawyer Roanie Levy said Access Copyright implemented as much of the Friedland Report as was possible, and that seems an accurate statement -- given what was possible.   

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