Professional Writers Association of Canada / Writers Union

More public discussion with John Degen

The following is a reply to comments John Degen added to his own BLOG. There were also replies to Cory Doctorow who also contributed.


Everyone you don't bark at isn't necessarily your friend :-)

Some of this is a repeat of past conversations, with the new thing being that it is part of the PWAC BLOG.

I am involved in this process to protect the rights of fellow creators. I applaud those authors who in the past got together with their traditional publishers and created collective societies to solve some problems of the day. This doesn't automatically translate to those collectives not being a problem for authors today. The world is full of good intentions and unintended consequences. The world also changes over time, and what might have been a solution to a problem in the past can very easily become a problem later on.

Protecting authors rights, including freedom of choice, in the educational market.

The following was a reply to a posting by John Degen on the PWAC BLOG.


We have had many conversations on this. Unfortunately we have never resolved our disagreement on the harm of extended/statutory licensing in areas where there is not a market failure (IE: where there are competing business models). Extended/statutory licenses are extreme measures that must only be used in extreme situations where there is a massive market failure, with radio airplay, cable retransmission, and IMHO non-commercial p2p redistribution being obvious examples of market failures.

Answering the critical question for creators: "They'll be paid how?"

The following is my response to a posting on the PWAC BLOG.

At CopyCamp I hope to host a session with fellow creators to help creators help themself with the critical question of: "They'll be paid how?"

The trick behind all of the excitement with young authors is to separate all business expenses and pricing into two columns: fixed-costs and marginal costs.

No matter what the chosen business model, the marginal cost to the creator for their own creativity is always zero. There is always a fixed cost in terms of time and other resources, with that fixed cost sometimes being quite considerable.

Globe and Mail reviews John Degen's "The Uninvited Guest"

A Globe and Mail article by Steven Galloway includes:

The Canadian Hockey Novel sounds as though it ought to be a cliché. You would think that our literature would be lousy with them, that if you shot a puck in a library you'd knock over a stack of stories about rinks, ice and cups. Based on what the average American or European thinks about Canada, we should be overrun by very funny hockey novels. But we aren't. In fact, there are precious few of them, and even fewer good ones.

The different stakeholders in copyright revision.

I just read a Slyck article by Drew Wilson that was a follow-up on an earlier article by Michael Giest questioning Heritage Canada funding of the Creators' Rights Alliance to inform the government CRA's position on copyright. The article suggested that I was critical of John Degen, the executive director of the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC). While the PWAC is a member of Access Copyright, Mr. Degen was unaware of Captain Copyright and other such initiatives before they were launched by Access Copyright.

This article made me realize that when it comes to the different stakeholders in copyright, many people are still having a problem differentiating them. It is for this reason I wish to offer a little bit of my own categorizations of the stakeholders in copyright revision.

Captain Copyright! -- where is the love?

(Also published by p2pnet)

John Degen posted his thoughts on Captain Copyright last week.

The character is silly, dumb, over-the-top and even, dare I say, derivative (in the critical sense). And I love him. I have a Captain Copyright sticker on my laptop... and I had vowed to never put a sticker on my beautiful little computer, but this guy is too great. He is way cooler than Elmer the Safety Elephant. I hope someday he too gets his own flag.

In the past few weeks I have been thinking why I felt such negative emotions about Captain Copyright taking flight. Here is my thinking, and I'm curious to read what other people have been thinking, and why they love or hate Captain Copyright.

Creative Creators...

While authors publishing excerpts from their books on the Internet, licensed under a Creative Commons license, is not unusual these days, I wanted to highlight one Canadian author who has done the footwork with his publisher to do this.

John Degen's latest book, The Uninvited Guest, has excerpts online licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 licence.

For those in Toronto, they should go to the Launch party: Thursday, June 15 (6:30 p.m.), Mitzi’s Sister, 1554 Queen Street West, Toronto

In his other life John Degen is the Executive Director for the Professional Writers Association of Canada. Is it possible that PWAC member authors may go the way of CMCC musicians and break from the associations that represent only legacy methods of production, distribution and funding? We live in exciting times!

More of the same vs. more of the different: A Brave New World

I attended the talk on May 13th by Michael Geist titled "Creator Copyright, or Creator Copyleft: A Brave New World". This was one of the sessions at the PWAC conference that was open to the public.

I heard Mr. Geist give this talk before, and have also downloaded the MP3 distributed by Rabble of the version that he gave at the Heart House. I went to the talk not so much to hear Mr. Guest, although he is always a great speaker, but to hear the reaction and discussions that would come from the professional writers.

I was not disappointed. While there were a few people who tried to start their remarks with an "all the professional writers in this room" type rhetoric, this type of thinking was always proven to be false. There was a considerable diversity in the room that, even if you excluded non-PWAC members like myself and Mr. Geist, still represented some of the diversity that exists in the copyright debate.

Canadian Professional Writers Survey

The Canadian Professional Writers Survey is now available from the PWAC website in PDF format (PDF readers).

To read more please read our BLOG topic area for PWAC.

A hard must-read for creators

I have been trying to read a paper published by the Creators' Rights Alliance in April of 2005 titled Repositioning Creators' Rights in the Digital World (HTML and PDF versions online). It is co-authored by Susan Crean (co-president of the Creators Rights Alliance) and Virginia Jones (Lawyer with Access Copyright). Ironically I debated Susan Crean as part of the Rabble Rumble back in October 2002, and Virginia Jones at the 2005 Council of Federal Libraries (CFL) Annual Fall Seminar.

I have made reference to this paper in the past in relation to its redefinition of the term "Copyleft" to mean something quite different than those who self-identify with that term.

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