Saturday, August 20, 2011

Writers Not So Happy with Reprographic Payment

Copy and paste this weblink and read the article in the Globe and Mail on education payments for copied material:

I am a writer like John Degen, but my take is different.

About 75% of the money made from schools, colleges and universities goes to the large educational publishers. These eliminate royalties at the first step for writers, and substitute fee for service, so the publishers get 100% of the royalties when they sell their books to students. Over the years, this fee for service payment goes down because of inflation. Then they come at the end and pick up the entire royalties paid for copying.

Writers get a small payment from the repertoire class. Last year the baseline was $175. That's all. This does not comprise meaningful income. 80% of writers got less than the previous year's baseline of $612, also a figure that does not comprise meaningful income.

The point is that schools, colleges and universities think they are paying money to writers, but they are not. Writers get virtually nothing. Writers don't like this but the reprographic corporation primarily reflects the interests of large educational publishers even though the copying payment was introduced for writers.

I would say that any university that pays this money will be pretty unhappy to learn that the money does not go to writers, artists, creators and so on. But that is what happens with writers receiving about 10% of revenue - in a system that was designed to give us a financial lift for our copyrighted material.

Many universities and other educational institutions have refused to pay the new tariff and have instead chosen to appeal to the court. Most of Access Copyright's Statement of Financial Activities, has a large asset of over $100 million, most is these 'accounts receivable' that it so far can't bring in, and part is part of the $63 million in cash and cash equivalents. If writers were to get only 50% of this asset, then we could begin to say that writers get some financial benefit from our copyrighted work. That base payment of a very small $175 becomes about $2275 - not meaningful income for the lowest paid writers, but enough to make a mortgage payment with a little left over.

This is the writer's reality. Don't think that reprographic money gets to writers. It is less than 10%.


John said...


You are certainly entitled to your minority opinion about how Access Copyright distributes royalties. I'm not convinced by your arguments, and I don't know too many professional writers who are; but, they are your arguments and they deserve discussion.

Of course, the decision by a number of prominent universities to opt-out of the Copyright Board's interim tariff is hardly relevant to any discussion of your opinion on AC's distributions. If the free culture crowd succeeds in expanding fair dealing within the academy to make all incidental copying free, then all that will be left to Canadian writers will be the very fee-for-service educational publishing you seem to so despise.

You may be happy with that outcome. I don't know why anyone would, except that it might satisfy some urge to stick it to the man at all costs. To my mind, the opt-out contracts the options for Canadian writers; it does not expand them.

At issue in the opt-out is not who gets the money and how much does each player get. The issue is whether or not ANYONE should get money for educational copying.

Hijacking one extremely important issue to bring a few more readers to your already expressed opinion is extremely short-sighted and, in my opinion, not in the least built helpful to "the writer's reality."

DC Reid said...


This blog is for writers to gain information on reprograpphic issues.

I respond to those who leave their full names. So, let me know who you are, and I will respond.

Christopher Moore said...

We have already had a couple of complaints, published and unpublished, about publishing an anonymous comment. But “John’s” contribution is worth pondering.
I’m in sympathy with much of “John’s” argument. Collective licensing certainly needs to be defended as well as reformed. We need to criticize the appropriation culture of academia as well as Access Copyright’s transfer of creators’ revenues to publishers, since creators suffer from both. Access and rights are two sides of the same coin, and that applies both at the licensing stage and the distribution stage of collective licensing.

Indeed, it is vital to engage both parts of this issue. The Ottawa culture bureaucracy is aware of shortcomings in the governance of collectives and has identified a review of how collectives fulfill their mandate on its mid-term agenda. For creators’ organizations to pretend there are no issues of governance in collective licensing, or that they should all be swept under the rug so long as copyright is a controversial subject, will simply damage their credibility. We make a stronger case for defending collective licensing when we demonstrate our determination to make it work better.

I’m in sympathy with Dennis, too, because, as he vividly shows, Access Copyright’s failure to represent creators’ interests does weaken the will of creators to defend collective licensing. It is a fair question -- and Dennis is not the only professional writer asking it -- why creators should do so much for collective licensing when it does so much less than it should for us.

Recently in Toronto there has been a great debate about potential library closings. Creators have been prominent in the defence of libraries – and so they should. But the blogger John Degen posed an interesting question recently (at how is it that creators do so much to stand up for libraries, yet librarians and library organizations are so often hostile to creators’ interests and refuse to stand with us?
Good question. Applies to more than libraries. ((But I still defend libraries, too.).