Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

COPYCAN AND A WRITER'S RIGHTS

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Last night, when I read at the launch of Rocksalt, the very handsome new anthology of BC poetry from Mother Tongue Publishing Company, I ran into League of Poets President Dennis Reid and Past President Cathy Ford.

They told me they have been crossing the country trying to raise awareness about the situation with Copycan, which pays for intellectual property. If you are a writer, or a writer's accountant, you know the situation. Apart from perhaps a half dozen of us, writers are bottom rung cultural workers.

That means no pension plan (hey, we're not losing on the stock market), no medical or dental p[lan and very very low pay. In Canada, book runs are small because our population is relatively small, so royalties don't amount ot much. We have a grant system, but grants are harder and harder to get as more people stick their forks in a diminishing pie.

What we have is Public Lending Rights and Copycan, which pays us for copying of our material.

I asked Dennis and Cathy if they would explain their mission in a non spread sheet manner, so we could all understand the very complex problem, one that leaves creators on the edge of a program designed to compensate them for their work.

Please get in touch with Dennis (dcreid@islandnet.com) if you desire to show support.

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Subject: Summary of The Main Problem With Reprography in Canada

In 1988, the Conservative government established a not-for-profit collective to deliver money to writers and creators for photocopying of their works. The problem is that the system has not done this well.

At program inception, writers extended a welcoming hand to bring in the smaller publishers who publish the greater part of this country’s written culture. Over the years, larger publishers entered the collective. Under their influence, writers have been moved from the intended targets of this program to receiving in 2008, likely less than 10% of estimated revenue of $39 million, the rest passing to administration and large publishers.

The best published figures - and transparency has been a serious problem - are that the largest publisher received $1.7 million in 2005 with the average writer receiving $496, or 0.03%. The Martin Friedland Report commissioned to study the issues was termed a ‘stunning indictment’ of the Access Copyright (AC) collective.

In 1988 the Conservative government did not foresee that larger publishers would come to own virtually all writer’s copyright, even moral rights, due to the disparity in contract bargaining power between them and writers. Today, from all earnings, writers average about $14,000 a year for creating this country’s culture. The smaller cultural publishers have also been moved aside, by among other things, their repertoire category being redefined to benefit large publishers, the largest benefit going to the category exceeding $100 million in annual book sales, largely sold to our public education system.

Most program revenue comes from government itself, federal and provincial, public libraries and the public education system – that is, it is tax derived - with smaller amounts from private and corporate copying.

Today, the program has lost its way. It is time for government to step in and correct the problem – reaffirming that creators are the target. Writers do not mind who cuts the cheque, but they do want to be treated fairly. Here are the solutions:

1. The federal government takes over delivery of reprography revenue to creators, with the intention of moving to a minimum of $2500 for each repertoire writer. This allows for elimination of the cost of current not-for-profit delivery at AC, as the figure need only be set each year, similar to the Public Lending Right. The other outcome is that government would recognize that the legitimizing force of creators no longer rested with the not-for-profit collective, and that the tax subsidy to larger publishers was not in the public interest.

2. AC recognizes that creators deserve a minimum of $2500 each, that is, about $17.5 million, or about 44% of total estimated revenue. This pragmatic solution leaves administration at AC, allows reward for all publishers, and the ability to raise revenue intact, due to retention within the not-for-profit structure of legitimizing creators.

3. Amend copyright legislation to prevent alienation of rights from writers and creators, the most troubling of which is moral rights. This long term solution is in addition to solution 1. or 2.

Dennis Reid.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Linda Rogers

Linda Rogers is the author of the novels Say My Name (Ekstasis Editions, 2000), Friday Water (Cormorant Books, 2003) and The Empress Letters (Cormorant Books, 2007). She has also published several collections of poetry, including Love in the Rainforest (Exile Editions, 1996), Heaven Cake (Sono Nis Press, 1997), The Saning (Sono Nis Press, 1999) and The Bursting Test (Guernica Editions, 2002).

Go to Linda Rogers’s Author Page