Sunday, December 02, 2018

Fake News on Fair Dealing from Michael Enright Himself and the CBC Sunday Edition


The legendary Michael Enright – host forever of the slowly declining but still usually worthwhile  Sunday Edition on CBC – has let his listeners and the CBC down badly today with his weekly "essay" entitled “A new survey shows how poorly writers are paid in this country”.  It is apparently based on little if anything more than a Writers’ Union of Canada (“WUC”) undated press release (which he acknowledges) based in turn upon a so-called “survey” of so-called writers that yields the much quoted and highly misleading result that the average Canadian writer makes only $9,380 a year and the incomes are falling fast. He says that: “In 2012, the Harperites changed the copyright laws, reducing writers' share of educational copying by tens of millions of dollars. The government's argument was that reducing the writers' compensation would help the education sector.” This, of course, is legally and factually false. Sadly, his “essay” can charitably be called “fake news” at best. The timing is interesting, coming just a day before what promises to be an eventful #INDU committee hearing on December 3, 2018 that will include Prof. Ariel Katz and Barry Sookman and amid lots of other hot and heavy committee hearings lately sadly full of fake news.

The obvious problem is that the survey respondents here are self-selecting and self-defining. Almost anyone can qualify to be an Access Copyright (“AC”) creator affiliate – and it’s not much harder to be a Writers’ Union member, since even a self-published book “that successfully demonstrates commercial intent and professionalism” gets one in the door – for whatever benefit if any that may be available.  At least it presumably still doesn’t cost anything to join Access Copyright. I should disclose that I’ve been a member for years and earned almost $85 this past year in royalties – more than many. I obviously don’t consider myself a professional writer – though I write constantly – and I’m not about to quit my day job. Waving a magic legislative wand to double my AC payout would get me a modest lunch for two at a decent restaurant without a bottle of wine – but could cost hundreds of millions of dollars a year to the Canadian educational system.

UNEQ – the counterpart to AC  in Quebec – has been spouting similar apparently  unreliable figures, claiming according to Le Devoir on November 27, 2018  While the average salary of respondents was $ 9,169, the median wage - the point at which 50% of the sample receives a higher salary and 50% receives a lower salary - did not exceed $ 3,000.” (as translated)

If Michael and/or his staff did any other research beyond WUC and perhaps Access Copyright propaganda, its not apparent.

Anyway, here are my three tweets back to @CBCSunday. I’ve listened to Michael for decades and he’s a treasure – so it’s sad to see him and his staff get played this way, or maybe even sadder still if he has lost his sense of journalistic balance and the need for adequate research.


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