Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Don Meredith on what not to do

Don Meredith, blogger and Outdoor Writers of Canada active member, is not keen on the idea of creators seeking a better deal at Access Copyright -- not at this time anyway, and seemingly not as long as copyright matters are being debated or Professor Geist has opinions.  His recent thoughts on the question are here.  I'm sure we will take up his points before long, but meanwhile take a look. Comments are open.


DC Reid said...

The Goose

Don Meredith is a good man and a fellow member of the Outdoor Writers of Canada. His current post on Access Copyright has lots of meat and is worthy of thought. Go and read his comments at: http://donwrites.wordpress.com/2011/07/28/killing-the-goose/.

The comments I make here refer to his comments. On The Goose: I would say, no, reprography was not started for writers and publishers. It was brought in by the conservative government of the day, and Flora McDonald spoke more than once on the subject in 1988, to give writers some revenue from, to that point, unauthorized copying of their works. You can read her speeches, if you wish to – you have to go to Hansard and request a paper copy as they have not been put on the web, to my knowledge.

It is clear from her speeches that reprography was intended for writers, as in 100% of the money. There are one or two mushy spots where a publisher could claim some coverage, but only one or two.

The reason publishers are part of the reprography system today is that writers, when they were writing the bylaws of the society, decided to extend an invitation to the regional, cultural publishers who by in large were and are the publishers of our printed-page books. We are the good guys. There are about 600 publishers involved today, and most are still in the class of publishers that writers extended that invitation to so many years ago. I know the person who wrote the bylaws, and she is shocked at where reprography has gone in Canada.

In a nutshell, reprography has moved toward more than 70% of the revenue going to the large educational publishers. Many Canadian cultural publishers that I know have been sliced out of reprography completely because the repertoire class on the publisher’s side was rejigged along the way to reward dollar value of sales. This rewarded the large educational publishers primarily.

The other loser was the original people who were intended to be the sole beneficiaries of the program: writers. Contracts have reduced educational writers to fee for service, and had their royalties eliminated, so that these publishers now receive all rights at the front end, make all the money on sales to our children – texts costing $100 to $300 these days - and then come at the end to claim 70% of the money from reprography because they eliminated royalties from writers at the front end. (Oh, and fee per page, also favours them, but that is another subject).

So, no, reprography was intended pretty much solely for writers and it has ended up pretty much only paid to a select group of publishers. And to pick up the last sentence of this section of Don’s comments: no, the repertoire category has not been given solely to creators. This is one of the myths of AC. When I first came to look at AC, I calculated using the actual figures in the Friedland Report that creators received only 10% of revenues. AC claimed it was 36%. Wrong. What they did not tell creators is that publishers share in the repertoire category, too. Seventy percent goes to the large educational publishers. And that left the 10% that I calculated for writers. I will do a post in the weeks to come on How to Lie With Statistics that goes more deeply into how figures are massaged to tell the tale the teller wants told, in this case AC is the teller.

DC Reid

DC Reid said...

I will follow up with a comment on The Golden Egg, shortly.

DC Reid

DC Reid said...

The Golden Egg

The permitting legislation for reprography set out that there be a repertoire class for photocopied works. The introduction of Payback changed all this.

The main problem with this is that it essentially eliminates the concept of reprography being a collective - the whole point of its being set up. This is a big issue that writers have not been told about - it is not in AC interests to do so.

In addition, adding visual creators reduces money for writers, and many can quite rightly say that visual creators should be handled by another collective. Those who are both written and visual creators simply become members of two collectives. This means a reduction of 40% of income to writers in the current Payback system and is a big reason why 80% of writers received less this year under Payback than previously under the unstratified repertoire system.

The other thing is that Payback was not discussed with members of the reprographic mechanism. We had no say in it. As AC likes to use the concept of 'fiduciary duty' in a pegorative way that means signatory reps do not answer to their organizations, but only support AC, writers do not have any say in any kind of change to the methods of money distribution.

Writers are at about 10% of revenue, and should, at minimum, be at 50% This is very simple. Our reps are not able to represent us at the table.

Writers did not ask for Payback, in fact, writers did not have a clue what it was about until it was already in place.

The system arbitrarily chops off works of 20 years, even though writers own copyright for their entire lives, say, as much as another 50 years. In addition we own copyright for 50 years after death. In other words, Payback has eliminated a practical means for gaining this revenue.

Writers need a new mechanism for that 100 years or so of copyright that we own. The creator reps are so tightly controlled by the reprographic mechanism that they do not represent writer interests.

So, no, the golden egg, that sits now at $104 million should have $52 million of it come to writers, rather than the much smaller amount of $4 million that came last year.

I lose a book next year, from a system that had one of its goals to help writers with income in their later years when they were not publishing as much. Payback has eliminated this purpose of reprography and further erodes the income of writers, and those when they are older and need the income as a form of pension.

$175 dollar writers don't think the system is fair, and our elders, who have no pension or benefits, unlike our own staff at the reprography mechanism, are further pushed below the poverty line.