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Updates on the issues affecting authors around the world

13/01/2017

International Authors Forum brings countries together to share their news

Picture of Amstelpark, the Netherlands, image © Katie Webb
Image © Katie Webb. Amsterdam, The Netherlands, where the International Authors Forum met

The second half of the International Authors Forum’s (IAF) meeting in Amsterdam at the end of October 2016, which FUIS attended as a member of IAF, gave the chance to various of its member organisations from around the world to report how their authors are faring.

Here’s a summary of what’s happening from the perspective of representatives of authors’ organisations in various countries, as well as an update on the global issues of Fair Contracts and International Public Lending Right.
 
Canada
IAF’s Chair John Degen, who is also Executive Director of the Writers’ Union of Canada, skpyed in, with some positive news amidst the tough time Canada’s authors are going through thanks to the expansion of the exception for education introduced in 2012, which caused schools and universities to abandon their licensing scheme, depriving many authors in Canada of much of a significant proportion of their already low incomes.
 
However, the Federal Department of Canadian Heritage is the middle of a wide-ranging review, which Degen reported as a promising development. He also announced the positive news that Canada has been named the country of honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2020.
 
Canada has signed a comprehensive trade agreement with Europe, which means it will increase its copyright term from 50 to 70 years after the death of the author.
 
Australia
David Day, the Chair of the Australian Society of Authors, reported on the latest developments of the Australian ‘Productivity’ Commission’s report on copyright, released earlier this year. If its recommendations are implemented, they have the potential to devastate the financial landscape for Australian authors. The proposal to cut the term of copyright from 70 years after the death of the author to just 15 years after the work is created, would seriously diminish creators’ negotiating power with their rights, especially their foreign rights. It is also in breach of Australia’s obligations as signatory to international copyright treaties. New Zealand already made some of the changes recommended – including introducing an educational exception. This led to cutbacks and losses, creating powerful arguments against such changes in Australia. The creative industries in Australia have mounted the Books Create Campaign in response to the report, and are hopeful it has generated enough awareness of the potential harm, to succeed. David Day acknowledged the letter IAF wrote as part of this campaign, as helpful input, and said it had been influential with the Australian Government.
 
US
There is an effort underway by groups representing creators for a copyright small claims court to be established in the US, due to the extortionate cost of bringing a claim to court – usually much more than the damages which might be received. Copyright small claims courts do exist in some countries, such as the UK.
 
Fair Contracts
The International Authors Forum’s (IAF) new secretariat Luke Alcott updated the meeting on the progress of IAF’s campaign for Fair Contracts. IAF has produced a set of Ten Principles for fair contracts, which is now available in Italian, French, Spanish and English, and is intended to apply to all authors in all repertoires. IAF encouraged all its members – unions of writers and artists worldwide – to share the document with their members. The Ten Principles are intended to be available for authors in all countries to have a better understanding of their negotiating power with their rights, and to bring authors together to face the global challenge of obtaining publishing contracts with terms that give them a fair deal.
 
International Public Lending Right (PLR)
Jim parker, the co-ordinator of the International Public Lending Right network, told the meeting he was working on a formula for a level of PLR remuneration that could be considered reasonable, equitable and appropriate, taking into consideration the different needs and circumstances of different countries which have, or might implement, the right.
 
Around the world, Poland is the most recent success story, having just introduced a PLR scheme. Cyprus will also put in place a form of PLR over the next six months, which may be distributed in the form of grants and scholarships. Denmark is to introduce ebooks to its PLR system, which is possible because their PLR legislation falls outside copyright. In Australia, there is a campaign to get ebooks included in their PLR scheme too.
 
The issue of including ebooks in PLR is ever growing, as ebooks become the dominant book form, although it has been unclear until recently whether they are covered by the European Public Lending Right Directive and can therefore be counted within PLR schemes. On 10th November, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that the requirement under EU law for authors to receive compensation for loans of their books by public libraries may also extend to the lending of ebooks. This is welcome news.