Thursday, June 16, 2011

Don Meredith comments

(Don's attempts to use the comment function are being sidetracked somewhere, and as we have not yet worked out the bug, we're posting his comment here:)

I want to thank Dennis Reid for his detailed explanation of the League of Canadian Poets support of the TWUC motion to reorganize Access Copyright in favor of more revenue for creators. There is much food for thought in that information, and I hope to take the time to compare that information with my understanding of how AC works.

That said, I wish to make an observation that might explain some of the de facto (and not so de facto) pushback I’m receiving from many of the creators I represent with regard “killing the goose that lays the golden egg” (as was quoted to me). Those creators are nominally called “outdoor writers” but include magazine and newspaper writers, book authors, photographers, broadcasters, videographers and assorted government and industry “information officers” (who regularly write on outdoor subjects for their employers). Personally, I earn the bulk of my writing income from magazine articles and columns, and less so from the two novels I’ve published (which qualified me for a TWUC membership). While Dennis reports an overall drop of income from AC for poets, I must report that a poll I made of the members of the Outdoor Writers of Canada showed that 60% of those who did receive a payment from AC in 2010 received a larger payment than they did in 2009 (some of those payments were in the $1000 to $5000 class). Why? Because most of these writers also publish photographs to illustrate their work in either magazines or books, and many are very prolific indeed. Thus, the expansion of the repertoire system through Payback, that included payment for photographs as well as the number of articles and pages published, provided many of the writers I represent to AC with significant increases in their income. As would be expected, these writers are somewhat defensive of that income.

That’s not to say that how AC is run and how revenue is distributed is not a concern. It is. However, it has been made clear to me that a more important challenge is on the horizon that could render all this arguing among the creators moot. If Michael Geist and the federal government are successful in placing educational copying in “fair use”, then a whole different landscape with regard to AC will be presented.

I’d be curious to know how writers other than book authors (TWUC) and poets (LCP) feel about this issue (e.g., where does PWAC stand). Have they supported the TWUC motion?


Christopher Moore said...

The Writers' Union is currently contacting the other creator member organizations to share the union resolution, to invite their response, and to propose further discussion if they wish.

Creator board members from CAPIC, CARFAC, and other organizations fought for years to get illustrators' and artists' rights recognized at Access Copyright. Your point about illustrators is indeed good news.

DC Reid said...


I sent a note to the OWC some time ago. In it I mentioned that members would be big winners in Payback. That is because of those on-going publications in newspapers and magazines coupled with taking one's own photography.

I am of those winners, too. However it still does not comprise meaningful income. It could with our taking 50% of revenue - simply multiply the value of your cheque by 5 and you get what you would get. However, I stand with those who have lost. I have different media that I can no longer access. I no longer have tear sheets to send in (Thankfully the OWC changed this contest policy). And the only records that I have of payment go back six years as that is the statute of limitations in income tax.

So all signatories benefit with a move to 50% of revenue such as in England. We will benefit by being able to control the policies that we use to make payments, and we can streamline the administration dramatically. The last alone would double our cheque. You see where I am going here: there is a whole lot more money to access.

The 20 year cut off rule makes it hard indeed to watch your books and published pages get lopped off the back end. We own copyright for the rest of our lives and 50 years beyond in our estates. I would like to change that rule because under payback you have no way of exercising it unless you take it back and do it yourself. I am told that AC does find some over 20 year material, but their sampling methods mean they only sample some copying and a book just may be missed.

I lose a book next year under Payback as it was published in 1991.

In closing, I would like to know the perspective of other writers, too, so please everyone, leave us a comment and suggest your organization join the committee.

One final thing, there are many writers out there who do not belong to a signatory group, and thus are without representation. Please let the committee know as it will have to have someone to represent your interests. My estimate is that there are several hundred of you.

Okay, one more thing. There is $63.7 million in cash equivalents witheld from distribution by AC. That again is another factor of two above the factor of four getting to the $16.9 million.