The following is my comment to an opinion piece in Straight Goods by John Degen.
There are many things in this opinion piece which are misleading or false. You need to understand what Access Copyright is in order to recognize them all.
Access Copyright is not a government agency or funding body, although it sometimes acts like one. It takes what appears like a “tax” on the money flowing through it to fund the Access Copyright Foundation, which is doing work far more appropriate for a government agency. If I were a member of Access Copyright having my money redirected this way, I would be quite offended.
Access Copyright is not a union representing a class of workers, even though people like Mr. Degen often try to confuse people into thinking it is.
It is a management organization that collects money from people carrying out specific activities on behalf of a subset of copyright holders. If you want to make analogies to other types of organizations you should think content retailers like Apple or Amazon which seek to offer “one stop shopping” for a large catalog of works.
If you look at these two things together and believe Access Copyright is closer to the public sector than Apple or Amazon, they still can’t claim to be a union. Anyone who is a member of a public sector union knows that the representatives of government agencies can sometimes be on the opposite side of the negotiation table from their employees.
Copyright is a series of activities which need the permission of the copyright holder to do. A big part of Access Copyright's recent lobbying has been anti-copyright in that they wish to remove the need for permission from Copyright holders and instead simply push more money through Access Copyright. While creating exceptions to copyright and mandating money flow through a collective may seem good to those in control of Access Copyright, it is bad for both creators and users of creative works. This removal of the full spectrum of choice that copyright otherwise offers to us should be of great concern to fellow creators.
It is simply false for John to claim that the announcement suggested "U Sask's intentions to never again allow use of our work within their classrooms". It is only a suggestion that these institutions no longer wish to pay Access Copyright as the intermediary between them and the authors. Any authors whose works are available via a wide variety of other sources will still be able to be used and appropriately paid for.
If an author says "Access Copyright or nothing", then that is their choice to refuse to be available to these institutions. It is like a musician refusing to sell their music through competitors to Apple then complaining that people who aren’t Apple customers aren't buying their music. It is the musicians choice to not license their works through competing retailers, not the audience.
I believe John Degen is doing a great disservice to all Canadian authors by suggesting they blindly support Access Copyright. Canadian authors may find that they would have a far more friendly and lucrative relationship with the educational sector if they pursued alternative license management organizations.