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.
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My first two posts on Access Copyright this week focused on its decision to stop pay-per-use digital licensing
in the wake of the Copyright Board’s interim tariff and the economics behind the copyright collective
. This post explains why the situation is going to get worse and offers (admittedly unsolicited) advice about what to do about it (all three posts available as a single PDF
The Access Copyright’s Board response to the Friedland Report is one of the few public sources that breaks down its revenue and distribution (though it is no longer posted online). In 2005, its licensing revenue came from the following sources:
|Universities and Colleges
|K – 12 Schools
|Foreign Reproduction Rights Organizations (RROs)
The percentages may have changed slightly, but there is every reason to believe they are fairly similar today. In the Access Copyright application for an interim tariff, it told the Board that “almost 50 percent” of its licensing revenue comes from universities and colleges.
The obvious problem is that Access Copyright is dependent on education for roughly 75 percent of its revenues. In the years ahead, much of this is likely to disappear. I’ve already argued that universities and colleges will increasingly walk away from Access Copyright as they pursue other licensing approaches for their materials (universities are spending over $100 million a year on site licenses via CRKN alone).
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