Thursday, November 25, 2010

Writer's Union Woes & Copyright Law

Oh, you don't get me, I'm part of the Union,
You don't get me, I'm part of the Union,
You don't get me, I'm part of the Union,
Until the day I die.
Until the day I die. (John Ford & Richard Hudson - The Strawbs)

I am a member of the Writer's Union of Canada. This isn't the kind of union that has angry and violent placard-waving protests or gets into bloody confrontations in the street. Sorry.
But the Writer's Union is a strong voice for professional writers in Canada. I get many benefits from being a member. Lately the Writer's Union has been appealing to the federal government about a new bill, Bill C-32, The Copyright Modernization Act.

Suppose you wrote a book and a local high school bought one copy (and you got paid 10% of the cover cost, say $3.00 for a $30.00 text book) and photocopied 60 copies of your book to give to two classes of students. You should have earned $90. but you got only $3.00.
Or suppose you take many hours to write a story for a local newspaper. You may get paid a bit of money for your work. Fair enough. But suppose a national magazine editor reads your story and prints it in a national magazine. It is enjoyed from St. John's to Victoria. After the warm glow of success fades, you would be disturbed that this magazine did not pay you anything for your work. Copyright law prevents people from using your work without compensation. Photocopying, scanning, or digitizing is an easy way for people to do just that: use your work without paying. Musicians lose in the same way when people download songs or copy CD's instead of buying the original CD.

The Copyright Modernization Act, if passed, will change rules around photocopying and digitizing work by Canadian authors and artists. It will take away from us some of the small amount of income we now earn. Writers and artists are contacting our Members of Parliament to ask them to reconsider this bill.

So How Do Writers Get Paid From Photocopying? The way things are now, organizations like Access Copyright have been formed to charge school boards, universities and such a yearly fee for allowing them to copyright a limited amount of published material. This money collected is divided between creators and publishers based on how many books are written how many copies were published. I certainly appreciate getting a cheque from time to time. Selling books in Canada is a very poor way to make any extra income. The writers who have summer homes and wine cellars and fancy cars usually have another job.
Help the creative artists thrive in Canada by paying for what you use, be it music CD's, photographs, artwork, poetry or prose.

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