I’ve been in trouble with the Publisher’s Association before, so it may happen again with this.
Trawling through Christmas time Facebook, where its mostly baby Yoda memes and pictures of decorated trees, a friend had posted a link to the New Zealand Society of Authors; Publishers Association of New Zealand and Copyright Licensing New Zealand Interim Response to New MBIE Paper.
It appears to be written after a meeting of the groups (maybe over a gin) and it honestly the strangest thing I’ve seen for a while. The document it refers to is Review of the Copyright Act 1994: MBIE’s approach to policy development. This is a document released during the process of reviewing NZ’s copyright law, and it it generally explains where they have got so far in their thinking after some detailed consultation. I’ve been partly aware of my professional association – LIANZA – my workplace and tohatoha’s responses. They are as you’d expect – copyright is a good idea in general, but copyright holders can clog the flow of information in pursuit of their business models. The MBIE response is calm and measured – we can’t do anything against international treaty, there are motives to create other than direct financial reward, but lets make sure creators get their due.
Publishers are absolutely fundamental to this process. They provide a valuable editing, selection and marketing process without which finding and disseminating new stuff would be really hard. You can’t just throw everything in a big bucket and expect people to find what they need. I happily pay for others to trawl through content that I could get for free to get me the stuff I want (or they think I want).
The paper though, accuses MBIE of attacking the creative sector, denying creators a living, redefining ‘access’ as ‘free use without paying the creator’, and accusing publishers of ripping off their customers. Reading the two things side by side its obvious someone has really worked hard at taking things deeply out of context to arrive at their conclusions. There is one new objective that has been added to the process that really seems to have ticked them off;
Support creators to obtain fair recognition for their creative effort, exercise a reasonable degree of control over the integrity of their work, and obtain a fair proportion of any revenue attributable to their creative effort.Review of the Copyright Act 1994: MBIE’s approach to policy development p21
From my perspective none of the creators I support get paid for their work. it is given, for free, to publishers to then charge us to read. And y’know, that’s OK. My colleagues create work as a result of the job they are paid to do, and we’re happy to support the publishing functions I described earlier, that all costs money. I’m happier when the business model used means everyone get access for free to the work, and payment for the services happens either indirectly – we pay people who review and edit these publications as well – or directly – as a charge to publish or patronize a publishing platform. The MBIE paper recognizes that not everyone writes for money in return for rights – this blog is a good example. The Author’s and Publisher’s response is that MBIE says the creative sector is “built on distributors and investors ripping off creators” (p1). Many billions of dollars in publisher’s profit (a fair few million from NZ alone) might argue that could be partly true.
It’s a pity the three importantly named organisations can’t respond more cogently. They take the risk of being ignored by taking a hyperbolic tone, something the recent discussions around academic access are becoming increasingly free of. By claiming that MBIE thinks creators don’t need to be paid, they disguise what could be an interesting point about how those who don’t currently earn a share of publisher’s profits (like, say, academic researchers) could be recompensed. They could start covering their publishing charges….