The Access Copyright Backlash: Writers Union of Canada Calls for Collective Licensing Reform

Last week’s series of posts on Access Copyright (transactional licensing, economics of the collective, future reforms, all three posts in single PDF), which examined the astonishing lack of transparency behind the copyright collective and the small percentage of revenues that are ultimately distributed to Canadian authors, resulted in a large number of private emails from authors expressing gratitude for the posts and venting enormous frustration. The concerns with Access Copyright broke out into the open this weekend at the Writers’ Union of Canada annual general meeting as the TWUC passed a motion recognizing the lack of control over how licensing revenue is managed and the inability of Access Copyright to represent creator interests. As a result, the TWUC plans to investigate operational separation of creators’ and publishers’ interests in collective licensing. 

The full motion passed at the plenary session of the TWUC AGM states:

RECOGNIZING that collective licensing of copyright is a vital interest of the creator community, but that creators receive an inadequate share of the revenues of Access Copyright and are unable to control how the copyright income raised in their name is managed

And RECOGNIZING that key differences in the copyright interests of publishers and creators will always prevent Access Copyright from fully and effectively representing creators’ copyright interests

MOVED that a solution is an operational separation of creators’ and publishers’ interests in collective licensing, for instance, by the British model of a creator-run distribution collective that controls and distributes the half of collective revenues that belong to creators.

And MOVED that National Council direct an investigation as to how this significant reform of collective licensing in Canada can be brought about at the earliest possible moment.

The motion apparently passed with one abstention and opposition from only three people, all Access Copyright board members.

The TWUC motion confirms that creators are justifiably frustrated with years of Access Copyright being run in a secretive manner, with basic information on distributions withheld from public scrutiny. Its board is too large, lacks any independent representation, and is the beneficiary of compensation far in excess of the norm for a non-profit. It has pursued questionable, expensive legal strategies that primarily benefit publishers (and lawyers), not authors.

While Access Copyright supporters – who are typically board members or former board members – invariably deride criticism as uniformed and critics as opponents of collective licensing, the reality is that many authors can see for themselves an organization that has failed to address years of transparency and accountability concerns. It took great courage for the TWUC to fight back yesterday with a motion that leaves no doubt that the current Access Copyright approach does not enjoy the backing of Canada’s creative community. The vote of non-confidence seems likely to set in motion dramatic changes that will force Access Copyright to finally address its critics with something other than silence or contempt.


  1. Russell McOrmond says:

    It is great to see this positive movement for creators. Some past directors of associated groups have claimed the current movement away from AC by post secondary institutions is. “Labour” issue. It is great to see creators recognizing some collectives as actually being management, not the union, and working towards protecting their interests from these intermediaries.

  2. Howard Knopf says:

    Well Done
    Well done, TWUC and Michael! I’ve followed up on my own blog and provided a link to paper I did in 1999 suggesting an alternative competitive collective. See Writers’ Union of Canada Proposes to Break Ranks with Access Copyright


  3. Crockett says:

    First customers start passing on a ‘distributors’ offerings and then so do the contributors themselves?

    Crazy! What’s next … new business models or something?

  4. Wayne Borean says:

    And this is just the start
    Expect to see the same happen to SOCAN as well.


  5. Did AC break the law?
    Quite frankly the AC operating budget should be discussed not just within the creative community, but within law and around AC’s mandate as a not for profit group. I believe there is a mandate each not for profit group gets with not for profit government certification. If they go beyond that operational mandate they risk losing their not for profit status, and I believe there could be fines involved in that as well. It’s been a while since I’ve been a part of a not for profit group, but do remember something along those lines with the boards I’ve been a part of in the past. Maybe a Ministerial and Government investigation into AC’s dealings here might be in order as well.

  6. Crockett says:

    Canadian Writers Untie 😉
    This begs the question, if the professional writer’s association of Canada has lost confidence in AC, has AC actually always been the proclaimed bastion of creator’s rights, or the conversely of the publishing industries?

    Are they not the same thing?

    Individuals have more power and choice today to manage their own interests than ever before, is a new way of thinking emerging in the creative world?

    All those poor middle managers and lawyers …

  7. Jeff Power says:

    I don’t understand
    Hasn’t John Degen been hear telling us what a great job AC is doing for Canadian writers. Has the man behind the curtain infiltrated the Writers’ Union of Canada? @Crokett have you secretly joined TWUC?
    Surely this is some kind of Black op by the mad genius Geist and his starry eyed minions to undermine AC with it’s core supporters.
    It’s mad just mad….

  8. Laurel L. Russwurm says:

    Not the Same Thing at all
    @Crockett Writers and Publishers are not the same and do not have the same interests unless the writer self-publishes. Just as film Makers interests are not the same as those of film companies, hence the existence of the “Director’s Cut.” And the greatest divide of all is between musicians and recording companies. The interests and needs of creators are very different than the interests of corporations. Creators want to create.

    TWUC does not represent all professional Canadian writers any more than Access Copyright does. There are other professional associations, and there are even wild eyed radicals like myself who belong to none. Even so, this is a good thing. Collectives need to be accountable to their members, else they aren’t collectives anymore.

    Government mandated collectives need to be transparent to ALL the citizens. Not so long ago Access Copyright was awarded guaranteed remuneration from elementary school boards. As a parent, I have to wonder how much a part that has played in the erosion of professional elementary school library staff, a situation that has gotten so out of hand my local school board is closing down elementary school libraries altogether.

  9. Laurel L. Russwurm says:

    “… half of collective revenues that belong to creators …”
    If we are going to continue the copyright monopoly, why, pray tell, is only *half* the royalty due to creators?

  10. Good job TWUC! Here’s hoping something similar happens for music and movie collectives.

  11. There were many, many errors in the three posts last week. Some were the result of non-existent or sloppy research. Others, given that they weren’t corrected even the true situation was explained, suggests an agenda to damage AC.

    Here are some of the untruths:
    •TWUC has for many years objected to how little AC money goes to its members. This has nothing to do with the distribution rules, or lack of transparency. It’s because what TWUC members write, wonderful though it is, doesn’t really get copied much in schools and universities, which is where most of the money comes from.
    •So long as most of what is copied is from educational textbooks, journals etc., writers will not see any increase in their share of AC money.
    •Setting up a new organization to represent writers probably won’t appeal much to the 90% of writers who don’t belong to TWUC. And it will, as in the UK, cost even more to run because of the obvious duplication in admin.
    •Directors do not get paid $10,000 a year. They can claim a small per diem for attending meetings. This came about at the urging of writers, who argued that many of them couldn’t otherwise afford the time commitment. Directors also of course get reimbursed for their travel expenses, which can be high because the Board aims to have regional representation. But with everything added in, no-one gets $10,000 and it would have been so easy for this to have been verified before making this untrue assertion, twice. And there is no valid comparison between being on the AC Board, and the small non-profit organizations on whose boards Dr. Geist serves: they involve less work, involve little or no financial decision-making, and as a $150,000 (or thereabouts) professor, he is expected to take on this kind of volunteer work connected to his teaching and research interests.
    There was an opportunity to write a constructive analysis of collective licensing. What a shame it was missed.

  12. apparently several posts critical of the prof are being withheld

  13. “…operational separation of creators’ and publishers’ interests in collective licensing.”

    How does this get around copyright ownership? I believe, in a vast majority of cases, the publisher owns the copyright, not the creator and that a contract is in place that dictates how much the creator get remunerated. Are they suggesting that should change?

    Hell, if we can get separation here, perhaps there’s hope for something similar happening with content/Internet providers. I can always hope.

  14. @IamME
    Well, that’s what this is all about, isn’t it? TWUC and its fellow travellers saw AC as a way to end-run the contracts they were signing. As you point out, separate organization or not, the fact is they still mostly don’t own the rights for which they still think they should get paid. Their other complaint, which also can’t be fixed, is that almost none of what they write is copied.

  15. Laurel L. Russwurm says:

    “they still mostly don’t own the rights”
    If writers don’t own the rights for what they wrote, there is no longer any justification for the copyright monopoly.

  16. Laurel, can they not sell those rights?

  17. @Laurel
    Sorry, but what a complete non-sequitur. Are you saying that if authors sell rights to publishers, or for what started as publisher copyright, there shouldn’t be any copyright protection?

  18. @Laurel
    Just because they wrote it doesn’t mean they own it or have the right to make money on it. It all depends on the contract they signed with the publisher. Obviously this does not apply to indie writers or those with the clout to demand decent contracts.

    I keep referring to the case of George A. Romero, the creator of the modern zombie movie genre. There are a couple characters (Bub and Big Daddy) in his movies that he would have liked to do back stories on, but upon looking in to it, while he was the one that created these characters, he discovered that he does not have the rights to use them and would have had to pay obscene licensing fees. So he decided to drop the project.

    Bad contract = writer has no rights.

  19. @IamME
    No, bad contract = writer didn’t get paid fairly for rights sold

  20. Professor Geist is a delusional fool!

  21. Oh Wait .. There’s one now!
    @Observer “apparently several posts critical of the prof are being withheld”

    See above 😉

  22. @Crockett
    No, delusional suggests a lack of knowledge or understanding. I think he knows exactly what he’s doing and it’s interersting that while he said he was open to correction on facts, he hasn’t actually corrected anything even when the errors have been pointed out. Rather, he has repeated those errors because they clearly have the effect of inciting just the reaction he wants. I’d have expected no better of some bloggers. A Canada Research Chair, you’d think, would see the importance of research and accuracy. Unless, as seems to be happening, the facts would get in the way of the story.

  23. “they still mostly don’t own the rights”
    More accurately, the publishers cannot claim to represent “writers’ interests”. If the writer wishes to sell the copyright to a publisher, that is their choice. But at that point the publisher isn’t representing anybody’s interests, except their own.

    This would also apply to collectives where the majority of the copyright holders are publishers and not creators/writers.

  24. Bad contract = writer has no rights

    if publisher has monopoly or other undue market control, then writer did not get paid fairly, otherwise the writer got what the writer agreed to, and maybe the writer will insist on a better contract next time.

    Trying to remove perceived undue market control from the clutches of A-C is, I think, where this motion is trying to go.

  25. Well, folks, I was at the TWUC conference this weekend, and took part in a great deal of discussion about copyright, writers controlling their own work on digital platforms and the ongoing relationship with Access Copyright. I am happy to quote the Chair of TWUC, Greg Hollingshead, in the announcement about this motion:

    “In Toronto this weekend, at their Annual General Meeting, members of The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) agreed to study the Union’s relationship with the collective licensing agency Access Copyright, with the goal of enhancing creators’ control of their own copyright interests. “But let me make it clear,” said incoming Chair Greg Hollingshead, “that the Writers’ Union and Access Copyright continue to stand together in support of collective licensing, copyright, and the protection of intellectual property.”

    Professor Geist’s selective reportage is quite typical of his approach, but the story he tells about frustrations “breaking out into the open,” is a complete misrepresentation of what actually happened. If he chose to actually research or experience the debate at TWUC instead of relying on private e-mails from a disgruntled few, he’d be able to report, as I can, that this disagreement over Access Copyright royalty distribution is nothing new, did not just “break out” this weekend and has nothing to do with anything written on this blog last week.

    The questions represented in this motion have all been answered many times by Access Copyright, but that does not stop the same small group from coming back again and again with the same questions in slightly different language to try their luck again. Essentially, what is being asked, again and again, is for writers whose work is not heavily used in the repertoire to receive a share of the repertoire equal to those of writers whose work is heavily used.

    Speaking for myself, as a writer whose work is NOT heavily used, I think the logic of these demands is inscrutable and indefensible.

    That the professor would choose to piggyback his own longstanding animosity toward AC on this kind of unreasonable demand is a logical and ethical morass entirely consistent with his history here. Beyond sad.

  26. There is another issue here. While MG is hugely pleased with what happened at the TWUC meeting, how exactly would TWUC benefit from where he wants copyright law to go? As I recall, TWUC strongly opposed his flexible fair dealing/liberal interpretation of CCH analysis. By fragmenting the copyright owner community and damaging AC and collective licensing (does anyone seriously imagine that TWUC has any negotiating power with the educational sector? when this possibility – TWUC opting out – first arose more than a decade ago, the AUCC said it was totally irrelevant) he is advancing his agenda, not theirs. The pity is that they don’t see this.

  27. Crockett says:

    Details of the objection?
    @Degen “Essentially, what is being asked, again and again, is for writers whose work is not heavily used in the repertoire to receive a share of the repertoire equal to those of writers whose work is heavily used.”

    On the surface the above position of course makes no logical sense, and if so they should be sent packing.

    Are they truly asking for, say an author of a book that is copied once is to be paid the same $$ amount as one that is copied 1000 times, or is it a more complex formula they are objecting to such as a pay rate difference?

  28. @Crockett
    Yes, that is exactly what they are asking. And a small core of TWUC members (not all TWUC members) have been hammering at this for more than 20 years. The way they get paid now follows very closely the surveys and record-keeping at schools and colleges. If you look at who belongs to TWUC, and what they write, you will see that it cannot be their work that is most used. Some of them consistently refuse to accept this and every year they pop up at AC meetings and complain.

  29. Agreed, if that truly is the case, that does not make much sense at all. I never understood the creator mentality, that there is this inherent expectation of income from their work, even if few buy it or use it. Why should they expect an equal share? Canadian musicians are famous for this, even worse with them given they’re subsidized by the private copying levy.

    Before I get chastised here, I realize this is a gross generalization, and only applies to small percentage of creators, but it is a mentality more prevalent within the creator community than, perhaps, any other profession.

  30. The TWUC according to this post is proposing an investigation onto AC’s conduct. It’s interesting how the AC trolls here come out in defence of their organization on Geist’s blog and attempting to discredit him, when Geist isn’t the initiating factor, nor conducting the investigation into AC. I wonder why the AC attack dogs are out in full force on this blog, when really it’s a pending investigation that they have to worry about not MG.

    I think more questions need to be posed on the conduct of AC (I’ve thought this for a long time), and regardless to popular belief, this blog isn’t the appropriate place to find answers to a lot of questions raised by the TWUC. Only a complete investigation can do that.

    It isn’t public opinion of AC that both Bob and Degan need to be worried about (public opinion of AC and the copyright board has already been largely set with these court cases and new tariffs), it’s the outcome of the proposed investigation into the conduct of AC that holds way more substantial weight with creators. I don’t think anything Bob or Degan says on this blog, will determine the position of the TWUC after their investigation is complete.

  31. Crockett says:

    Look after the children first …
    OK, so in essence what they are asking for is the same pay for the RIGHT of their works to be offered, rather than the actual frequency of use (which may actually be not at all)?

    If this is the case then is this not the same mentality that a media levy proposes?

    A levy on a CD, MP3 player or SD card has no correlation to the actual use of the media, my MP3 player only holds my digital iTunes purchases.

    Yet I am be asked to pay creators for a RIGHT that they are not entitled to because it MAY be used?

    It seems to me if you are asking consumers to operate under that mindset you may want to consider treating your own the same?

  32. Tehe. It’s a little off topic, but somewhat related to IamME’s last comment.

    Cory Doctorow today quite nicely lays out the evolution of some of these collectives and their feelings of entitlements through history.

    composers to recording industry.
    recording industry to radio
    radio to cable companies
    cable companies to internet.

    Each new medium being accused of piracy buy the mediums that proceeded it.

  33. Crockett,

    As Bob said.

    The “repertoire” payment from AC was, for years, the only way many affiliates were receiving any royalties from the collective. It represented a pool of money from uses for which the owner could not be located. AC has always been dedicated to locating actual owners wherever possible and so, naturally, as they got better at doing that the size of the repertoire cheques decreased. This coincided with a growth in educational licensing revenues – the result of fair licence negotiations with more and more schools. So, on the surface, it looks a bit funny. “Hey, the total revenues for AC are going up, but my cheque is getting smaller. What’s going on?”

    Well, what was going on is that the people pulling in the new revenues (educational publishing) were being paid their fair share of the pot (how educational writers choose to deal with copyright in their contracts is a separate issue), and other heavily-used writers were being properly located.

    There are, as I see it, too types of objectors to this natural evolution. Those who just think a bigger cheque from AC was nicer than the smaller cheques they get now, and shouldn’t we go back to the big cheque days; and those who feel the collective “should” have been founded on a principle of a complete 50/50 creator/publisher split, and so all the millions of dollars should always be split 50/50 regardless of contract terms and actual work ownership.

    Neither float my boat.

    To be claer – and again I refer to Greg Hollinghead’s statement – the motion Geist refers to is an AGM motion. That does not indicate TWUC policy. It simply describes a request by certain members that theose present at the AGM decided to honour. There will be — another — investigation into distribution splits at AC. I predict it will find what every other investigation has found – a basic, irrefutable fairness.

    Why Michael Geist explained none of this in his original post is a more interesting discussion, I think. Of course, I didn’t see Dr. Geist at the TWUC conference this weekend, so doubt he has a balanced understanding of it. Balance isn’t exactly his thing. Anyway, he has now clearly aligned himself with a small group of TWUC members making old, unreasonable objections to AC, and asking for a distribution system that is decidedly unfair to the actual owners of the works being used.

    Does he agree with them on how distribution should be reformulated? Does it even matter if he agrees, as long as he can suggest “that the current Access Copyright approach does not enjoy the backing of Canada’s creative community.”

    Utter clownishness.

  34. I don’t think AC has anything to worry about concerning a TWUC investigation. AC is run by representatives of its members. The board (which is too large, but please not Prof Geist, it was the writers who repeatedly refused attempts to have a smaller board) is elected. Management reports to the Board, on which there has always been a TWUC representative. There are three certainties to any TWUC investigation: they will discover nothing new, they will propose nothing workable, and they will accept no conclusions that vary from what they’ve already decided, which is that they don’t think they get enough money and that it’s so unfair how much goes to textbook authors, educational publishers and foreigners.

    Oh, Jason – the definition of a troll is not someone who disagrees with Dr. Geist.

  35. Sandy Crawley says:

    @ Crockett
    The motion that sparked this blogpiece was from The Writers Union of Canada (TWUC), not the Professional Writers Association of Canada.

  36. Crockett says:

    And I ask you again …
    @Bob “which is that they don’t think they get enough money and that it’s so unfair how much goes to textbook authors, educational publishers and foreigners.” … that they don’t equitably deserve?

    While I agree with your premise, is this not a similar mentality than what the ‘collectives’ ask of consumers with a media levy?

    And you wonder why people get upset at the creative sectors ‘we want out cake and eat it too’ mentality when they don’t even treat their own that way?

  37. I have responded again with a longer comment that is, of course, being held for moderation.

    To Crockett’s point about a levy — no, the logic is not the same.

    While a levy may not be a perfect solution, it is a reasonable solution to a copyright difficulty. While some may end up paying into the levy and not using the media for a leviable purpose, our society decided that was the lesser of two evils – the larger evil being that massive, uncompensated copying was taking place, damaging professional creation.

    The old repertoire payment (also not a perfect solution) is completely different because while an unlocatable creator might not be paid, the use was undisputed and the money was earmarked for creators.

  38. Actually Darryl, that’s completely off topic. And entirely expected.

  39. @Crockett
    The job of a collective is to get as much money as possible for the “product” they “sell”. If AC decided not to license (say) schools, or to offer a 50% cut in the cost, they would be screwing over their own members which, incidentally, include several thousand professors, as well as most Canadian publishers. Do some of the tariffs push at the boundaries? Maybe, but that is why we have the Copyright Board and the courts, because there are inevitably issues of interpretation and fairness that demand an outside review. The fact is that for the educational sector, AC was a much-needed way to manage copyright. That need may reduce and it will certainly change. But to imagine that there is any other way to process the millions of small transactions is simply dishonest. Open Access is a partial solution, but won’t necessarily cost less. A massive expansion (statutory and/or judicial) of fair dealing will do the trick. But there will still be a need to provide the preclearance that AC now offers. If you seriously doubt this, talk to anyone who has tried to get permission from a publisher.

  40. yor are such terrible liar !!!!!!!!!
    What the hell is wrong with you ??????? Looks like I have to promote a blog to to let people know your propaganda. I already let my Conservative MP know about my concern about you.

  41. Crockett says:

    Thanks for the clarification.

  42. @Bon
    “I already let my Conservative MP know about my concern about you.”

    …because the conservatives are known for their honesty and always put Canadians first. Right? Have you even followed some of the asinine, moronic things they’ve done in the last couple years. I’m surprised our flag hasn’t been changed to “stars and stripes forever”. Do I need to remind you about how Moore called every single Canadian, including ALL 3 opposition parties, who disagreed with his opinion on C-32 “radical extremists” or how how Harper, in speaking about C-32 said, “I don’t care what you do, as long as the Americans are happy.” That sounds like they have Canada’s interest at heart. At least Geist is fighting in the interest of the general Canadian, not Obama and definitely NOT American big media.

    Geist is a high enough profile individual that can you can rest assured someone in Ottawa (AND likely Washington) is probably monitoring this blog and his publications very closely. At least for the time being, we still have free speech in Canada and Geist is free to have his opinion about these things as are you.

  43. Crockett says:

    John, I do agree that compensation should be relative to use, and thus think that the TWUC as you outlined does seem unreasonable. There is always the devil in the details.

    Similarly, on your position on the media levy, there is little verifiable proof that uncompensated copying does cause significant damage to professional creators. Even the creative lobby friendly US government have said that the **AA’s numbers are ‘plucked from the air’. Unfortunately, levies have often been based on these same numbers, when other factors may be contributing to some or most of the impact on creators.

  44. @IamMe
    Interestingly, though, Geist is in favour of foreign ownership of Canadian media and telecoms; and in favour of US-style fair dealing; but not in favour of US copyright law if it also means DMCA

  45. @Bob
    “the definition of a troll is not someone who disagrees with Dr. Geist”

    I never said it was, and I never defined such a term in my response. In fact statements that are assumptions, and thrown out of context like the above is a prime example of a troll response.

    In fact I disagree with Geist on a regular basis. I still do not understand why AC trolls are on here calling out Geist for reporting on the fact that AC is now under investigation by the TWUC. The first of many investigations that will be occurring in the time ahead. I think creators deserve answers to questions posed by the TWUC, and also questions of law need to be answered to ensure that AC hasn`t overstepped their Non-profit mandate also need to be discussed politically and as a clear matter of public interest considering the responses on this blog.

    If there is nothing to be worried about Bob, why would you try and discredit Geist on his own blog while reporting an undisputed fact? In fact you’re responses to Geist along with Degen’s should raise serious questions and makes those investigating pay a lot closer attention to AC’s conduct. Well done sir.

  46. @Bob
    The Americans have done certain things correctly and other things not so well. Why should we not take the good and leave the bad. Even the person who designed the DMCA has admitted it was a complete failure in it’s intended purpose. The Americans are simply too narcissistic to admit they rushed the DMCA and screwed it up and have been trying to push their screwed up legislation on the rest of the world ever since. At the same time, the DMCA has had all kinds of negative fallout and unintended consequences. Garage door companies suing generic remote makers, John Doe law suits, copyright trolling, notice and take down of web sites and content with little or no legal recourse for the owners. etc. etc. etc. DMCA did NOTHING to stop piracy. It doesn’t take someone with Geist’s training to determine the DMCA is bad legislation.

    You want to know why piracy is at an all time low in the US? I’ll give you 3 reasons….

    1. Netflix
    2. Hulu
    3. Pandora

    With the unlimited bandwidth available in the US these are only 3 of many viable, cheap/free alternatives.

    BTW, I’d rather our local telecoms provide competitive Internet and keep the money in Canada, but if it takes foreign ownership to bring us in to the 21st century with the rest of the world, then so be it.

    This is way off topic and I apologize for that.

  47. Actually your wrong Bob. I looked up ‘troll’ on the Internet and the picture on Wikipedia says it all.

  48. Crockett,

    Please be accurate in what you write. I have never said TWUC is being unreasonable. By passing this motion to do yet another investigation, TWUC has reasonably and generously responded to the concerns of some of its members. These are not TWUC’s concerns – and I think they made that clear with the statement of their Chair. They are the concerns of a small group of people who differ in opinion from most AC affiliates, but who are tireless in their campaigning.

    If TWUC had dismissed these complaints, Geist would undoubtedly be writing today about how a ‘growing dissatisfaction with collective licensing is being suppresed by TWUC and its corporate masters.’ And in both cases, Geist would not have bothered to look any deeper into the issue than he needed to to form his entirely biased interpretation.

    I ask for the umpteenth time — don’t you want better research from the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law?

    I sure do.

  49. What the TWUC
    AC is not “under investigation” by TWUC, one of whose members in Chair of AC. Some TWUC members are, and always have been, resentful of the small amounts that they get. Basic privacy law limits how much information can be disclosed on the payouts, but it’s certainly no secret that you will usually get more if you wrote a textbook than the kind of book that TWUC members write. There are quite good reasons for this, and no alternative licensing mechanism will change the flow of money because the money should go to the people whose publications are copied. Most rational people understand this. There is though a minority within TWUC that doesn’t and never has and never will.

    We trolls are not calling out Geist for reporting facts. Our objection is that he is grossly misrepresenting key aspects of this discussion in pursuit of an agenda that is in fact wildly divergent with the interests of TWUC members. If any of those who supported the motion they passed at their AGM, I suggest they actually read his positions on copyright law reform.

  50. Jason K,

    AC is “under investigation” by the TWUC?

    I’ll be chuckling about that one the rest of the evening. What is being called for, essentially, is a feasibility study on how effectively creators could manage their own royalty collection and distribution without the legal and administrative assistance of Access Copyright.

    Who will run the new collective? Who will staff it? Who will fight for it before the Copyright Board when Michael Geist sends his ill-informed troops to object about its existence (it will be a collective licensing body, after all)?

  51. @Bob
    “AC is not “under investigation” by TWUC”

    Sorry my apologies, maybe formally describing the TWUC action as one where they are directing the National Council to investigate collective licensing reform, which will include and not limited to the scope of which AC has operated on behalf of creators. In clearly understandable terms, the TWUC will be investigating questions posed by its members. The conduct of AC quite clearly will be discussed in this investigation as the National Council investigates reform.

  52. Just saw this up on the Access Copyright site:

    I assume Geist will be making an apology for getting so much wrong over the last week.

  53. @Degen
    Apologizing would be letting the facts get in the way of the story.

    And, I really don’t mean any disrepect but the National Council of TWUC is more likely to spend an entire day bickering over the provenance of their fair trade coffee than actually investigating anything. If they do get beyond that, the ONLY thing they will fixate on is how to steer more money to their members. There is no aspect of AC “conduct” that calls for review. Specifically, if we look at director honoraria and expenses, I’d wager that creator nominees on the Board collect the majority of the money.

  54. @Degen
    I find both Bob and your responses to be somewhat of a sales pitch for AC rather than debunking obvious questions the National Council will be investigating on ACs conduct. Both of your responses from a political and public relations stand point state that AC members are on the defensive as questions are being posed by creators on this organizations conduct which may lead to significant reforms.

    Pot shots at Geist won’t change that. Geist doesn’t sit on the boards of these organizations to my knowledge, and it’s the members of the TWUC not the readers on this blog that you have to convince your point of view on. Everyone is entitled to make their case. I’m sure AC will have to make theirs when the National Council comes knocking looking for answers.

  55. @Jason K
    I think, if you read what has been said, that the “obvious questions” have been answered time and time again. And you keep using the word “conduct”. What conduct are you talking about? AC is in the business of copyright licensing. The main complaint of Dr. Geist seems to be that they’ve been too successful. But TWUC is hardly going to unleash its crack investigators on the revenue side of the equation. Nor really can they complain about the outrageous practice of paying small honoraria to self-employed writers on the AC Board. So what exactly is the conduct regarding which they will “come knocking looking for answers”? Their only complaint is that their members get less money than they think is fair. But the last time they complained about that, and Prof Friedman was hired to fix things, creators ended up getting less. Even now, most TWUC members get subsidized at the expense of writers whose output is copied far more often.

  56. @Bob
    I do not sit on either the TWUC nor their National Council to be qualified enough to answer what they will or will not be investigating with respect to AC. Conduct of AC will be clearly discussed as stated by statement by the TWUC Geist has posted in this blog which is fairly self explanatory. If you wish I can completely dumb the TWUC statement down to a level of the language that is more easy for you, but as someone who is defending AC’s interests, you should be intelligent enough to figure it out yourself.

  57. @Jason K
    It’s ONLY about money, Jason. They want more of it.

  58. ….
    “It’s ONLY about money, Jason. They want more of it.”

    Ahhh, don’t we all. Never seems to be enough to go around.

  59. @Bob
    “But TWUC is hardly going to unleash its crack investigators on the revenue side of the equation”

    Just one note on this, since AC is a not-for-profit group, their revenue streams under law have to be provided to the public. Privacy concerns can be easily settled with redacted financial statements and transactions through FOI requests. Under law anyone can request revenue information from AC and are entitled to it due to AC’s non profit status.

    The fact that AC and its members are clearly hiding behind privacy laws as an excuse for financial anonymity suggests that this organization clearly has something to hide. AC is not entitled to that anonymity by law under not for profit status.

  60. “It’s ONLY about money, Jason. They want more of it. ”

    Isn’t that how these blog posting got started, a significant increase in AC’s charges?

  61. Crockett says:

    A more reasonable solution ..
    @Degen “While a levy may not be a perfect solution, it is a reasonable solution to a copyright difficulty.”

    A more reasonable solution than a blank media levy would be a point of sale charge included in the sticker price of content such as a CD or a digital download, this could grant the same usage rights that the levy is supposed to allow.

    This would, while still presuming a use that may not be exercised, allow the following:

    1) Tie a private copy allowance to actual content with a much more reasonable expectation of copies being made than on blank media which is multi purpose.

    2) Easily equate renumeration of the copyright holder to the actual product sold, thus getting around this pesky distribution ratio problem in the ranks.

    3) Let people understand what they are purchasing upfront and what rights they are able to exercise. I think many would appreciate & accept this.

    Again, not a perfect system but still a generous compromise considering many may never use said purchased rights.

  62. @Bob
    “AC is in the business of copyright licensing.”

    Then they should have left the tariff a tariff and left the insane reporting and audit requirements in the trash. Even if they simply went with the monetary increase, I think fewer would be looking to step away. They’re free to ask for as much money as they see fit, but the new reporting requirements are onerous at best while the audit requirements verge on privacy invasion. More and more common these days there are no solid lines between ones work life and private life, perhaps even more so within the academic community. Home computers are used for work, work computers are used for (Let’s assume appropriate) personal purposes. I, along with a growing number of institutions, find AC is simply overstepping their bounds.

    If “it’s ONLY about money”, lost clients means lost revenue for AC and ultimately those creators licensed through AC, so perhaps it’s appropriate that they be investigated, if for nothing else, a financial audit to identify weaknesses and help their business position. TWUC might only be the first to demand such action.

  63. IamMe,

    Can we get this straight, please? TWUC is not demanding action. A small number of discontented TWUC members are asking for a committee to be formed to study the possibility of a creator-only collective. TWUC decided to let them have their AGM motion. It does NOT determine TWUC policy or even majority opinion. It forms a committee. Ever served on a committee?

    The reporting and audit requirements existed in the days of licences as well. The reason – the ONLY reason – AC went the tariff route is because universities refused to negotiate new licenses, and yet are still using the repertoire. So who’s acting in bad faith? Walking away from AC doesn’t mean you just stop paying. You have to stop using the work as well, and that’s not happening.

    Jason K – my comments here are to correct factual incorrectness, of which there is plenty. While you go start your own investigation of Access Copyright, I wonder if anyone else here is as disturbed by how casually Geist’s repeated wrongness on the facts is being dismissed by some of the usual apologists.

  64. @IamME
    “If “it’s ONLY about money”, lost clients means lost revenue for AC and ultimately those creators licensed through AC, so perhaps it’s appropriate that they be investigated, if for nothing else, a financial audit to identify weaknesses and help their business position.”

    AC goes through financial audits each year and those audits are made public. Under law because of the not for profit status AC has to do this.

    Pure speculation, but what I think what’s happening here is that AC’s operational budget is sky rocketing, and payouts to creators remain virtually peanuts. AC’s position is that their operational budget has increased due to things like fighting for a new tariff at the copyright board, hiring lawyers and representation, fighting at the federal court of appeals. Once a case is won, the operational budget than increases again for the next fight AC launches, while creators seen little change in their overall payments from AC due to legal costs to obtain more tariffs.

    While AC members and board are not seeing profits themselves as something you would see within the private sector, the lawyers tied into this organization seem to be getting paid a hell of a lot more than the creators are.

    With more economical ways now of rights distribution and collection that are being explored by a lot in the creative communities, thus far AC’s approach has been expensive with little to no reward in the pocket books of creators, which is not just the case on AC’s approach, but the vast majority of collective licence type organizations within Canadian Copyright. Thus an investigation is being done to see if there is a better economic solution, and lobby to implement it within law.

    From the looks of it as well, members of the TWUC want a greater voice on how collective licensing organizations are using their rights to exploit the system. Considering Degen considers himself to be a champion of expanding the creative voice, one needs to question why he is opposing, and playing down those who are fighting for these ideals outside his connections with AC. If it’s all about increasing pay for creators, one would both Degen and Bob to be behind these moves, since the scope of what comes out of this “investigation” could have a profound positive impact on creators pay in the creative industries.

  65. @Jason K
    Actually, Jason, AC does not have to provide financial statements at the level you suggest and there non-profit status is irrelevant to this. They DO have to file an annual report with the Copyright Board, which they do. If you want to look at it, it’s on the AC website.

    The rest of what you suggest is such innaccurate nonsense it’s difficult to know where to start, and a waste of time to try.

  66. pedestrian says:

    Compulsory Monopolies are not a good idea, they really need strong community benefit and necessity to justify the costs they create. They need very strong governance if they are not to become totally self serving in nature.
    AC may have made sense in the days when publishing and distribution was capital intensive and in the days when the photocopier was the only common means of copying and was only to be found in school libraries.
    Those days are gone.

  67. pedestrian says:

    Ps “The co-chair of AC is a TWUC nominee. Unless she quits now, she has to find a way to quieten her own constituency.”

  68. end user says:

    @Degen While a levy may not be a perfect solution, it is a reasonable solution to a copyright difficulty

    Actually its is no a reasonable solution. THE ONLY solution is to add the cost of private copying to the cost of the media at the sales counter when the product is purchased. After all this is about “private copying” as in copying/format shifting (buzz word alert) media that you already purchased anything else is copyright infringement and there are laws already there to deal with it.

    The reason extra cost at purchase time is really never discussed is because it adds an extra visible cost to the media making it more expensive and will turn away consumers from buying that media. Now add this cost to say a SD card which 99% of the time is used for photo storage and you get away with robbery because most people wont notice the extra cost.

    Now I’d be ok with the levy on SD cards IF the packaging included a big fat sticker explaining what the extra $3 is for. I’m pretty sure majority of Canadian consumers would make noise after seeing where the extra money they spend on the memory card goes to.

    So Degen what about adding the extra cost to the media at purchase time?

  69. @end user

    “THE ONLY solution is to add the cost of private copying to the cost of the media at the sales counter when the product is purchased.”

    I agree, but the cost of ‘private copying’ is exactly zero, so it should make no difference to the final cost of the media. The Americans have fair use and have never paied for this. We have all used VCRs and have never paid for that. Until the last decade we also freely made our own mix tapes without making further payments there either.

    You both start from a premise that something is owed for this ‘right’. It is the same flawed premise that has my kid’s afternoon theater program telling the parents that they cannot record their kids’ performances, and I wholey object to this premise.

  70. @Bob
    “Actually, Jason, AC does not have to provide financial statements at the level you suggest and there non-profit status is irrelevant to this.”

    Often not the case with respect to formally requesting with the information officer. I’ve had experience in requesting FOI’s from not for profits (also sat on a few boards) who claim their immune to the public’s right to know. Privacy concerns are often the deterrent, however those requesting FOI’s have an option to go to the privacy commissioner to have the case looked at. Upon request anything submitted to the yearly auditor can be up for public discussion. Privacy law and redaction of documents often not left up to the organization, rather the discretion of the privacy commissioner’s office to comply with applicable laws.

    If you run a not for profit group, it’s to the benefit of and funded by the community, and the community by law has full access to financial documents upon request.

  71. @Darryl

    I’m actually full on against any levy that is lobbied by one industry so that the levy is passed/attached to another industry. I have no problem with one industry wanting an extra levy on their own products. I like to see corporations commit suicide, much better entertainment then the $64 I spend on SHAW cable and get 90% filler channels.

  72. @Bob
    Furthermore any member of AC can get access to financial documents without and FOI request. The FOI requests are usually done by members of the general public. Members of AC by law are to have full disclosure of financial information of the organization. Last time I checked the TWUC was a member of AC, meaning they can get and are entitled to detailed financial documents from AC without a formal FOI request.

    If Geist is right here:

    “The TWUC motion confirms that creators are justifiably frustrated with years of Access Copyright being run in a secretive manner, with basic information on distributions withheld from public scrutiny”

    The proper procedure would be to follow up with the appropriate privacy jurisdiction for further insight if privacy is the main concern in non-disclosure. There are several options available to especially members of AC to get disclosure. And several penalties that could also be posed upon AC for not disclosing information its members and the public (including stripping the organization of Not for profit status). This is something I’m sure the TWUC will be touching up on in their own investigation. If not, I’m sure someone else will.

  73. @Jason K
    OK, last time: Jason, please read what the TWUC motion actually says. They call for an investigation into alternatives, not into how AC distributes licensing money. So there will be no squad of interrogators marching down Yonge Street. As for financial documents, these are already published.

  74. Weee
    I love how Bob and Degen argue by providing clear unbiased evidence from a third party.

    Oh wait…

  75. @Anon
    It’s called reading – in this case, reading what TWUC said, and what Dr. Geist said they said. It isn’t difficult. And as for the financial statements, they are on the AC website.

  76. Bob, to understand the intellectual stonewall that goes on here, all you have to do is look at today’s reinterpretation of the past week by Geist.

    His merry band of protectors and defenders come by their mendacity honestly. Reading actual source documents and digesting the real information they contain is not in the free culture playbook, I’m afraid.

  77. FYI
    AC website does not qualify as “clear unbiased evidence from a third party”

  78. Like a moth to the flame…
    I figured that would rile you up. Too easily manipulated my friends 🙂

  79. Not The Real John Degen says:

    What a load of malarkey
    That’s right! Malarkey!!!! I was at the TWUC conference this weekend and guess what…THERE WASN’T EVEN AN OPEN BAR. Why do I waist my time with you ill informed Geistians ….move out of your parent’s basement! Why do you blindly follow this false profit? Look at him, he has no chance of producing decent facial hair! I once had a hamster named Blake…he’s dead now.

    I am Not The Real John Degen and I’m not wearing any pants.

  80. @John
    John, I think “intellectual” is not a good characterization of these discussion. There is a leadership vacuum at the top and it goes downhill rapidly from there.

  81. Black Knight says:

    You don’t frighten us, writer pig-dogs! Go and boil your bottoms, sons of a silly person. I blow my nose at you, so-called A-C-king, you and all your silly writer kaniggets. Thppppt!

    Now go away or I shall taunt you a second time-a!

  82. money money money
    TWUC wants more money. Bravo. AC takes in about $35M p.a. Currently there are 10,000 creators repped,and this number will grow to somewhere between 17.5 K (PLR #) to 20K.

    Take out the money shipped abroad, about $5M. This leaves $30 M. Let’s assume TWUC gets ALL of that money, and there is no overhead. That would mean about $1500 and $1700 per writer! Yahoo.

    Well let’s now assume Geist gets what he wants, which $0, nothing nada from schools and post sec. Hm. That would mean tops about $8M to distribute. ($35M – 70% – 20% of remaining for damn furrin writers)

    $8M divided by even the smaller number of creators 10000 (and let’s face it some won’t bother as the money shrinks) and now we’re down to $800 per creator.

    Man oh man! Have we ever been screwed by AC over the years! Why those bastards have been taking out overhead! And the publishers, those greedy bastards! Why they must have taken some too!

    It may make y’all knickers burn with the iniquity of life, but provinces and CAUT are launching sequential lawsuits that will consumer WAY more money than we’re talking about here.

    What’s more all GEist has managed to do so far is now incite the dumber members of TWUC to buy into this grand nihilist vision.

    You go guys! Scorch that earth!

  83. @Degen
    My apologies, “…demand such action.” was ill chosen wording. More appropriately it should have read “…request such action.”

    “Walking away from AC doesn’t mean you just stop paying. You have to stop using the work as well, and that’s not happening.”

    Who’s not paying? Most universities pay huge amounts in licensing. Just because they’re not going through AC does not mean they’re not finding alternate licensing means such as open licensing and alternative collectives. I know we go so far as to track down individuals if we find a graphic on a site such as Flickr that someone wants to use in their course materials.

    So, as you’ve said to me on multiple occasions, “…as long as they’re not doing anything illegal…”, because I’m sure if we were, the auditors and the Copyright Board would be all over us and any mass offenders as you claim universities have become.

    “The reporting and audit requirements existed in the days of licences as well.”

    Perhaps…but not nearly to depth they’re requesting now. Personal e-mail scans, among other things…c’mon, really?

  84. Article in Access copyright website about Giest !!!!!! interesting!!!!!
    Very clear response……I found it very very intersting and informative. Hey Giest, whats your thought on this article ?