Friday, November 26, 2010

meanwhile, in today's Globe

(thanks to the Canadian Magazines blog for this image)

A coalition of Canadian writers and writer groups has purchased a full-page ad in today's Globe & Mail calling Bill C-32 as written "unacceptable" and asking for immediate amendments from the Special Committee on C-32.

This coalition, which has been attacked by certain consumer advocates as elitist and fear-mongering consists of:

The Canadian Authors Association;
The League of Canadian Poets;
The Literary Translators' Association of Canada;
The Playwrights Guild of Canada;
The Professional Writers Association of Canada;
The Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators and Performers; and
The Writers' Union of Canada

Take a look at the names signed to that open letter:

Margaret Atwood
Farley Mowat
Heather Robertson
Yann Martel
Jane Urquhart
Daniel David Moses
Caroline Adderson
Rudy Wiebe
Susan Swan
Nino Ricci
Susan Musgrave
Wayson Choy

Other than the obvious CanLit stars, these groups represent over 5,000 hard-working creative professionals, who average around $24,000 per year from their work for the cultural sector.

Their concerns about the proposed legislation are real and informed by authoritative legal advice. A full-page ad in the Globe speaks volumes about their commitment to see meaningful and positive amendments to Bill C-32.

Good on them, and shame on anyone who suggests they are working against the interests of average Canadians.

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Crockett said...

$24,000 a year? Wow, that's not very much. Why so low? As I recall the return from the levy averages around $600 a year. So all this fuss about locks and levies translates into a 2.5% bonus to artists.

Seems to me like like a misapplication of effort. Would it not be better to spend your energy on improving the contracts artists are under? 24K is a really criminal amount, who can support a family on that? CRIA what are you doing about this?

Maybe artists should be looking to improve their fare by exploring different ways to monetize their work using modern technology and new opportunities outside the traditional industries control.

I also think efforts improving relations with customers and fans would be a much greater enricher to your bottom lines than demands and threats.

I am all for Artists making a decent living for their efforts. I appreciate Art in it's many forms. I'm especially interested in supporting Canadian artists and willing for a portion of my taxes going towards supporting out home grown industry. I am not interested in Lady Gaga squeezing a few more cents out of me with a proportional levy.

Honestly, I think consumers and creators can get along just fine if they were willing to think outside the box. Merry Christmas to all the Artists out there. I hope the New Year brings you more opportunities to enrich the world. I'll be thinking of you as I relax to Holiday tunes by the fire.

Unknown said...

This is a fun one. I like levies from a general point of view, however the current change to the levy level doesn't seem supportable to me.

$24K a year isn't sufficient for anyone to live on. What other options do we have to help writers? Would a Canadian Content rule for book sellers have advantages? Or do we need to found a co-op style book publisher, owned by the writers?

Unknown said...

John, delete this one, I forgot to check the box to send me an email for follow up comments.

Crockett said...

Here's another thought, rather than a levy why not just add the 2.5% or hey, even 5% to the initial purchase price and then let the consumer shift/backup as they wish?

The levy is not meant to compensate for file sharing so let's not add that into the argument. The best way to fight infringement IMO is to offer better service, value and engagement to your fans.

Unknown said...

Management Secrets of the Grateful Dead, right? I remember a recording industry executive saying that the Grateful Dead were crazy to allow fans to record their concerts.

They were. Crazy like a fox. The Deadheads are the most loyal fans in the world, and the Grateful Dead are financially successful because of it.

The problem is that the average writer/musician/actor just isn't capable of doing this. I was talking to the author of 'Feed' ( She's a friend of my wife's, and she just cannot see how she can do things. When I pointed out that Corey Doctorow does, she said that he was 'the god of self promotion' and that she couldn't hope to compete.

I told her that she didn't need to compete, just be herself, and offer package deals, signed books, with copies of her compact discs (she's an accomplished musician), in other words give the fans extra value.

Her response was that she didn't have the time, or skills.

A lot of artists don't want to do anything other than art. Interacting with fans is beyond them. One excellent musician that I know quit music, because she just couldn't handle the people. She's a zookeeper now, and far happier.

Gruesome said...

The assumption here is that someone who earns 24,000 a year and calls themselves an artist deserves more.
What are the criteria used to attain status in this group?
If I wrote one book 4 years ago and haven't done anything since, do I fall into this $24,000 a year group?
Being an artist is a small business, look at how many small businesses fail every year.
Only 70% of small businesses survive more than 3 years.
Does theft from artists need to be eliminated(at least to a reasonable level that any business suffers) ?
Yes it does, should an artist be guaranteed a certain level of income or even a career as an artist? That should all depend on their ability to turn it into a career.
It took me 4 years to attain a level of income that was reasonable for me to continue as an artist. I get $0 dollars from any other sources other than my hard work.
If a levy is applied to storage devices this could impact my business in a negative way.
Storage devices I use to in my daily work include
Memory Cards
Backup drives
Media displays with storage
NAS devices
My Computer and Nas device have a combined 12 drives in Raid for redundancy.
Should I be paying a levy on these devices just so I can supplement another artists income?

The more I think about the more I'm in agreement with Minister Moore.
Which is really hard for to handle.
It makes no sense to add a levy to storage devices that a huge number of people would never use to store other artists media on.

Lets crack down on piracy hard and allow artists to stand on their own 2 feet.

Unknown said...

Agreed levies can be a problem, the Compact Disc levy prevented me from starting a business (originally it was impossible to buy discs without paying the levy).

So it would depend upon the form of the levy, and the amount. The original levy proposed for IPods and hard drives was ridiculous, and a property grab by the collection society, in other words, greed given form.

Joe Clark said...

Actually, we’re attacking you as “inaccurate to the point of intentional deception.” It would be nice if even one of your friends could accurately state the nature of the education exemption in fair dealing, and write a cogent argument why the parody exemption, which we’re also getting, is just as “bad” as the education one.

Copyright, let alone Canada’s Copyright Act, is not fundamentally about perpetual rents paid to a copyright collective. This is another fact of which you and your friends seem to be oblivious.

A concerted campaign of disingenuous misrepresentation eventually becomes indistinguishable from lying. You’re almost there, John!

John said...

Mr. Clark,

Your angry accusations perfectly illustrate the sustained attack Canadian cultural workers have been defending themselves against for years now, under the happy-face mask of user rights.

I don't think there's any doubt left (among those who choose to actually pay attention) that the post-secondary educational system is gearing up to claim as "fair" just about every classroom use of copyright protected material as long as it is unprotected on the internet and can be delivered digitally. Dr. Geist, the Ministers of Education, the Student associations, and various individual universities and colleges have all made public statements to the effect that fair dealing (after CCH) should provide coverage for most if not all classroom use. This is nothing more than a cynical sidestepping of established agreements and laws.

I believe that a wholesale shift to digital delivery is being prepared for naturally, but also with the hope that a reduction if not elimination of photocopied use in coursepacks would suddenly eliminate the need for a collective licence. Geist makes a lot of distracting arm motions about open access, other commercial licencing, and the six-part test but that does little to disguise the trojan horse of educational fair dealing. No one is buying it, except of course for those who buy everything else Geist says.

The collective licences cover actual uses. You and others may have complaints about how that use is tracked or measured, but until now universities have signed agreements knowing that the use happens, and that it is not covered by any existing fair dealing. The link between not paying any collective licence and saving money in university budgets is clearly made by everyone on the user rights side, and amazingly you hold no scorn for those who would use the image of the poor broke student as cover. Writers and artists will lose a legitimate income stream that costs very little in the big picture and, what, tuition and fees will go down? Not bloody likely.

I have no idea who you think my "friends" are, and I don't care. You embarrass yourself with unsupported attacks against my character, and presumably the characters of most of Canada's established professional writers and artists. If that satisfies you in some sort of bad boy rebel way, so be it.

Unknown said...

I don't think there's any doubt left (among those who choose to actually pay attention) that the post-secondary educational system is gearing up to claim as "fair" just about every classroom use of copyright protected material as long as it is unprotected on the internet and can be delivered digitally.

Just like there's no doubt left that the audio and video distributors intend to do everything possible to make sure that copyright never expires, and that artists won't be allowed to hold copyrights.

See, I can be just as paranoid as you John :)

Actually I believe that both you and I are right. Education would like 'Fair Dealing' (which is the proper term) to cover everything education does, and the audio and video industries would love to make it illegal for independents like myself to operate.

Crockett said...

@MAD-HAT "Actually I believe that both you and I are right. Education would like 'Fair Dealing' (which is the proper term) to cover everything education does, and the audio and video industries would love to make it illegal for independents like myself to operate."

In both cases it's the party with more clout taking advantage of the other. John, I can understand and empathize with your concern and anger .. welcome to what the consumer faces every day.

Anonymous said...


For the record, if you read the writers open letter you will know that we are not emphasizing the existing "levy" (actually a royalty) on devices, our main concern is the weakening of collective licensing, which is a completely separate issue in C-32. And I totally agree that writers (and other creators) need to strengthen our position within our contracts with manufacturers and distributors. By undermining the principle of compensation for use through the introduction of broad exceptions under Fair Dealing C-32 makes adapting to innovative new approaches appropriate to digital publishing more difficult.We're not relying on TPMs (which seem to be your main bugbear) but on the principle of compensation for use including the secondary uses that increase exponentially as time passes. We need a new law, but C-32 as drafted ain't it.

Oh, and professional writers don't get any part of the "levy" on devices.

Crockett said...

@Anonymous said... "We need a new law, but C-32 as drafted ain't it. Oh, and professional writers don't get any part of the "levy" on devices."

On those points we can agree.

As a matter of fairness, I do not see why writers should be left out of a levy scheme, regardless of the practicality of levies to begin with.

As for C-32, I think the whole endeavor is short sighted. There has been some talk of Canada developing a digital economy strategy, yet here we are pushing through a ill thought out bill to carry us through the next five years.

It is a completely new world out there. The digital landscape has changed the way people consume information for good. There is no going back to the (I hate to have to use the tired old line yet again but ...) 'old business models'.

Copyright, levies, contracts, liability etc. all must be reconsidered together in a exhaustive effort with ALL the stakeholders equally represented and not being pushed by big moneyed interests. (And yes, I'd like a side order of world piece to go with that). Not a easy task by any measure but something that still should be done.

And by the way, thank you for your respectful tone of your post. Much more can be accomplished when we don't shout at each other.

Unknown said...

Did you hear the latest? Apparently Geist and Sookman are listed as impartial witnesses to the C-32 Committee hearings. #C32comm


Crockett said...

Impartial? Well, if you bring those two close together they may cancel each other out. Just be careful of the blast ;)