· It is impossible to define who is a professional writer, musician, composer, painter or other creator. I write a lot in my work and outside of my day job. I certainly don’t consider myself a professional “writer”. However, I got paid about $85 this year by Access Copyright– which is more than others I know. It’s always been incredibly easy to qualify as an Access Copyright creator affiliate. Doubling my Access Copyright royalties will mean nothing to me other than a nice lunch for two – but could cost the educational system hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
· The composers whose works you might hear at the National Arts Centre are lucky to make more than $500 or $1,000 a year from SOCAN. Good thing they get grants and commissions and maybe salaries as a professor if they are lucky.
· Virtually all professors are writers – and they get well paid for their writing by getting tenure and nice six figure salaries. But only a very small handful – such as Jordan Peterson – make serious money writing books.
· A trade book selling 5,000 copies is a great success in Canada. The writer will be lucky to get $15,000 from the publisher and a pittance from Access Copyright. I hope they have a good day job.
2. How digital technology can help artists get paid….
Digital technology has much potential. Justin Bieber was discovered by his talent manager through his YouTube video cover versions in 2008 and the rest is history. And there’s the recent example of that wonderful 95-year-old Canadian gentleman Harry Leslie Smith who is suddenly a world-wide sensation and who we wish a speedy recovery.
3. Increased use of the public lending right and similar models
The Public Lending Right is an excellent program that rewards writers whose works are borrowed from public libraries. Because it’s outside the copyright system, the payments can be restricted to Canadian writers. Sadly, the maximum annual payout has fallen over the years from $4,000 to $3,000. Let’s put more money into this system – and consider Roy McSkimming’s suggestion for broadening the system to include an Educational Lending Right. This would enable payments to Canadian authors of school and college textbooks and other educational materials, including scholarly works.
4. How collectives can best serve artists?
Collectives have an inherent conflict of interest when it comes to serving creators. High salaries and high legal fees can only be justified in big organizations with annual revenues in the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars.
- Actual repertoire
- Average and median payments to individual creators
- Salaries of senior officers and in-house counsel
- Amounts spent on outside lobbyists, lawyers, experts and other consultants together with names
5. Levies and taxes
Since 1997 Canada has had a blank media levy system. I have tried on behalf of the Retail Council of Canada to get the Federal Court of Appeal to agree that it’s an illegal tax and very nearly succeeded. As they say, close but no cigar. However, a previous Minister Hon. James Moore agreed with me and in 2010 called proposed iPods, phones and other devices a “tax” and said, “this idea is really toxic and, frankly, really dumb.”
It’s more than high time to kill off the levy scheme in Part VIII of the Copyright Act and any idea of zombie tax. There’s no “Value Gap” in the copyright system. However, there’s a serious “values gap” in the fake news that is being disseminated these days about IP in general and Canadian copyright revision in particular.
6. Need to clarify that tariffs are not mandatory
The elephant in the room is the issues of whether Copyright Board tariffs are mandatory. They are not. I won that case in the SCC three years ago – but most of the copyright establishment is in denial or actively resisting. A tariff that sets the maximum for a train ticket from Ottawa to Toronto is fine – and we used to have such tariffs. But passengers were always free to take the plane, bus, drive my car or ride my bicycle or use any other legal and usually unregulated means. It should be no different with Copyright Board tariffs.