The most important thing that writers should focus on in reprography is the money. It makes no sense to be arguing fine points about education this or that, the international writer’s ‘stamp’, or any other small issue, until the money argument is solved.
With Payback, the already low base payment of $612 dropped to $175, a drop of 70%. Eighty percent of writers got less money. But at the same time, the financial papers of AC report a bulging balance sheet of $104 million. It has to be admitted that reprography does not constitute meaningful income. But we can make it so.
I do not think it makes any sense to have the approach that, well, we help AC now and during the period that a new Copyright Bill is passed, and then they will do nice things for us. That has not been true for the past 23 years. I think it is the opposite approach that makes sense: if you want our support, give us 50% of the money. It is precisely when the reprographic mechanism is in need of support that writers have their greatest advantage for a pragmatic solution.
How much? Take the cheque you received and multiply it by 13 and you get roughly the amount of the cheque you will receive. For example, those large number of writers who got the $175 payment would get, when the balance sheet assets and accounts receivable were fairly distributed a cheque for $2275. And for those currently at the $1000 level, that means a cheque of $13,000. As Stats Can says a writer’s average income is $15,000, that means a cheque for $13,000 almost doubles income. Does a writer want this money? Sure. It begins to redress the issues of writers being essentially shoved out of their own organization to the bottom of the pile for more than two decades.
Arguing sensibly, with our own lawyer negotiating, the deal would be inked before writers supported the system. Remember, if a new Bill makes AC collapse under its own administrative costs, it is not a problem for most writers. That is because the high priced help will leave, and 15% of current revenue would still be coming in. And all the new assets added to the current $104 million balance sheet will still be there to be divvied up.
But there is even more money than this. I know mentioning Michael Geist is heresy to most writers, but when you are thinking pragmatically, you have to consider at least one thing that he has said. He points out that currently - and this would remain so even after new legislation - there is a six point test for determining fair dealing and that means some of the education return of about 75% of annual revenue will still come in. This is extra money in excess of the cheque of 1300% above your current cheque. I say show writers the money. And until that issue is resolved writers should not get distracted by dinky issues.