Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Bittersweet Irony in Valuing a Book

Since 2003, I’ve been receiving, along with many other Canadian authors, an annual payment from Access Copyright Canada. This organization is a nonprofit, national organization who licenses the copying of the work of Canadian creators (including visual artists, publishers, and others) to educational institutions, businesses, governments and so forth. They then pass the monies collected onto the copyright holders. (You can read more about this on their website). 
My highest income came in 2012 (over $870, however, after that time, the Supreme Court of Canada added a “fair-dealing” provision to the copyright law and, let’s just say, it’s been a game changer.

Over recent years, educational institutions and others have since challenged how much they should pay to share, remix, or copy someone’s work. Access Copyright has since been forced to significantly reduce payments to copyright holders.

Despite adding a new book to the roster nearly every year, the cheque I received this year was just over $200.00. A recent article in Quill and Quire reports that the organization might have to reduce payments by as much as 55% in 2017. You can read the reasons HERE.

In a world where writers earn well below the poverty line as it is, and people (I’ve seen them) think it’s quite okay to photocopy an entire book, it’s just another unneeded obstacle in the quest to be paid for our hard work.

Ironically, I’ve been selling my mystery novels at Christmas craft fairs this month, and have found that customers are happy to pay full value for books primarily because they love mysteries and believe in supporting local authors. These people aren’t loaded with money. But they are loaded with goodwill, a love of reading, and respect for artists.

You could well argue that this is an apple and oranges issue; that buying an author’s book at a fair is hardly the same as paying a pittance, if anything, to photocopy copyrighted work for teaching and research purposes. But for me, it all boils down to the same issue: what value do people place on a book? Does it have any value at all? Or only as long as it doesn’t interfere with their own agendas and priorities? Maybe everyone, including, businesses, governments, educational organizations, and even the Supreme Court of Canada, should be giving this further serious thought.

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