Access Copyright, Beta Project, Bill C-32 – Oct 3, 2011
The purpose of this entry is to offer a different point of view for Canadian creators from that offered by Access Copyright, the current mechanism for delivering writers reprography in Canada. My background is: legislation, finance and statistics. Please form your own opinions.
1. Creator Ombudsman. Transparency. An ombudsman to deal with creator issues. Not on the board. No fiduciary duty. Fully and always responsive to creator wishes. One year position. Problems published on AC website.
2. Transparent Response to Creator Queries. All questions handled within seven days. With a real-time web forum and problem threads. AC needs to grow up a little and receive criticism openly, transparently, and with the intent of solving the issue, not simply defending its turf and saying no.
3. Copyright Lawyer for Writers. Writers need a copyright lawyer who is paid by AC, but is completely arms-length from AC, who is hired and fired by us. Law is not about truth. Law is about making your best argument. What we get now is law from a publisher’s, particularly large educational publishers’ point of view. We need our own advice.
4. Redo the Friedland Report. To be delivered to the Ombudsman who will deliver copies to the signatories, undigested to affiliates on AC website, to this blog and AC. AC to respond within one year. Non-redacted.
5. Lawyer’s Opinion on Fiduciary duty. A fund for creators to seek a legal opinion, arms-length from AC. One lawyer has opined that AC does fiduciary duty wrong. This is at the heart of why our reps do not represent us, and there is a lot of money that has been decided, probably in excess of $300 million.
6. New Copyright Act and the Demise of AC. A new version of Bill C-32 has been floated and it will result in the demise of AC. We don’t want our financial statement of $104.2 million frittered away by high-priced help clinging to their jobs.
Do note that a remnant of AC will remain – 15% – and then writers and small cultural publishers can get on with setting it back up 50/50. Introducing the 50% and the UK model are the most important items. There is also education revenue from the current six part test rule that AC has not been upfront and open about with creators.
7. Move to UK-like Program. The long term goal is change to the UK corporate system. One part is that writers receive 50% of the money, and publishers the other 50%. There are four corporations. One licences and collects the money, it is split and then, the second part of the system, sent to the writers or publishers corporation for distribution. Writers have complete control over our money.
We need to find a way to seize the assets in the transition so that the investments and balance sheet amounts, including accounts receivable are split 50/50.
The creator co-chair, Penney Kome, needs to be sat down and persuaded that her job is to oversee the eventual shift to the 50/50 model, and to one more in line with the UK model of reprography. We will need quick movement when the new Copyright Bill becomes law.
Soon to come: my thoughts on Bill C-32, amendment to the federal Copyright Act. If you are a writer, you need to read this and then complain.
Also, see a current letter to Premier Gordon Campbell on the BC Beta Project that has put 650 books on the internet without paying most/all of the writers.
Beta Project Letter
September 14, 2010
Dear Premier Campbell
Re: Beta Project Puts Books on the Internet Without Paying Writers
I am writing to let you know that if you want BC writers to be positive about your Beta Project that took 650 of our books – most for free – and put them on the internet, you will have to pay us. A digital book can be loaned to anyone on the planet, and the author will never sell another book.
I suggest $10,000 per book and $2,000 per year per book. This works out to a $6.5 million initial payment, with a further $1.3 million per year. This is fair for a project that reputedly cost $13 million, and because everyone else involved with this project gets paid. None of the writers I contacted have been paid. Most have not heard of the program. You need to pay us, too.
Comparison of Public Salaries and Benefits with the Royalties of Writers
Your salary is: $192,821. Your Deputy’s salary is: $348,600. The salaries of the other involved Deputy Ministers are: $299,215. The salaries of the involved Assistant Deputies are: $140,000 – $185,000, with leadership additions of $81,843 to $113,073. Then there are salaries of the directors, managers, line and staff of government officials. Then there are the salaries of the teachers involved: an average $62,422 in Saanich. And the salaries of teacher-librarians are higher than $62,422. And there are the fees paid to the consultants. On the other hand, writers have no salaries.
Your deputy’s severance ranges from: $348,600 to greater than $500,000. And in the past year, you paid out $24.8 million in severance for public servants. Writers have no severance.
You have benefits (24% of base salary), insurance and pensions (typically 60% of the highest five year’s salary), and the figures are very large – I have them, but keep this short – for the rest of the past-employee’s life, with additional COLA clauses. And the rest of the public service has these supplements, as do teachers and teacher-librarians. Writers have zero benefits, insurance and pensions. No COLA clauses.
And the situation is even worse. My estimate is that the optimistic average royalty from one of the books you have taken from writers is: $6,000. It really is that bad, and it may take several years to write that book. Pay the writers who are the ones who have written the BC culture for your project.
And it gets even worse. BC’s poet community is nothing less than stellar, yet Stats Canada no longer has a category in its income table for poets because they make so little money. The Writers Union of Canada estimates that the average writer’s income is $15,000; that is 7.8% of your salary and below the poverty line.
Yet your news release says: “Working together, our librarians and publishers are bringing a collection of riches created by British Columbian authors to people in every corner of the province. The BC Books Online project is an inspired way of combining technology with the great legacy of reading our own stories and exploring our own history.” – Peter Milroy, UBC Press.
It is bitter being one of the unpaid writers of all these riches.
History and Writer Contracts
But there is more. Historically, writer income has plummeted since the 1960s: magazines have flat-lined, resulting in more than a 50% real decline in income; some magazines pay less in 2010 dollars than they did 40 years ago; more recently the internet has made many print publications fail; the internet has allowed unpaid copy-and-paste of copyrighted material; publisher contracts have become punishing, stripping many royalties and adding other clauses, the most egregious of which is the indemnify and hold harmless clause; this requires a writer to put their house and all other assets on the line for as little as a $100 article; and, Google wants to eliminate all book income in exchange for $60.
In the same time period, writer contracts have become punishing because of the disparity in power between a writer and a publisher. In the contract for the book of mine you have put on the internet, the subsidiary licences stripped me of electronic rights and nine other rights; this included moral rights, the most fundamental of all author rights, something that should never happen. In addition, a current clause in many contracts states that the publisher gets all and every right: in any media developed now or in the future, here or anywhere else in the universe.
Miniscule BC Government Writer Support
During this difficult period, government support has withered. The writers grant portion of the arts budget that you ravaged 94.4% to $3 million is miniscule: about $375,000, in modest amounts of $5,000 to $10,000. That means only 35 to 50 writers of the more than 6,000 in BC get what is less than a month’s salary for you. Stated another way: the total grant money for all the writers in BC is the same as what you pay your one deputy minister. No wonder, Jane Danzo, Chair of the BC Arts Council, resigned (and embarrassed you into giving a stingy $7 million back).
You need to pay the writers of this province’s culture because you have eliminated the income from their books by making them available without charge to everyone on the planet.
During World War II, when Britain was undergoing the blitz, the finance minister suggested to Winston Churchill that funding for the arts could be cut. Churchill replied indignantly: “Then what are we fighting for?”
You need to do the right thing, too.
President, Victoria Book Prize Society
President, Federation of BC Writers
President, League of Canadian Poets
Joe Blades, President, League of Canadian Poets
Alan Cumyn, President, The Writers Union of Canada
Alan Twig, BC Bookworld
Denise Savoie, MP, Victoria
Carole James, MLA, Victoria-Beacon Hill
CBC News Vancouver
Globe & Mail, BC
Quill & Quire
Q: A writer mentioned that Access Copyright suggested that they distribute revenues 2/3 to attributed, identified ‘books’ and 1/3 to unidentified ones.
A: A non-spun contrary explanation is this: overall, writers receive about 10% of total revenue (around $3.7 million) while almost 90% of the $37,000,000 goes to Access Copyright itself and mostly the large publishers.
Virtually all writer revenue is directed from a repertoire category, that meters out about $500 per year each (and there is a bit extra for identified ‘books’). Unlike for writers, the money that goes to unidentified publisher-owned ‘books’ is directed from a repertoire category, mostly to the large publishers, because the repertoire categories have been rejigged to award such money on the basis of annual sales categories – the larger the publisher, the more it gets. This also means that the smaller cultural publishers who publish most of the written prose fiction and poetry of Canada get far less.
August 24, 2009
Go to: creatorscopyright.ca for articles from a creators point of view on copyright issues.
Go to: Excess Copyright for an analysis by a copyright lawyer opposed to the recent K-12 decision and what it means for the Canadian education system, and not-a-lot Spot for writers.
Go to: http://www.zeropaid.com/news/86740/access-copyright-copyright-debate-will-rob-you-of-your-livelihood/, for a different point of view on the recent News Release from AC on getting invovled in the current Copyright Act amendment discussions..