Thursday, April 19, 2012

More on those CLL payments

On 2 April I blogged that applications were open for the very generous CLL 2012 Writers’ Awards, $35,000 each for two serious non-fiction projects. This unleashed a torrent of comments (i.e. one from Keri Hulme ) about CLL’s payments to authors out of its revenues from photocopying licences. I hope I managed to clear various misconceptions up in the ensuing energetic discussion but there was a later comment from Bill Manhire that is worth bringing up to the front page, as it were, for further discussion. What he said was news to me:
One problem with CLL and anthologies like the proposed AUP one is that payment for work copied is made, not to the particular contributor, but to the anthology editor. This is administratively convenient, but manifestly unjust – especially given the number of secondary and tertiary institutions that compile handouts and course readers from the pages of published anthologies. It’s especially bad news for NZ poets.
As always, Bill is quite right. It is unfair. (It also explains why I received a payment – it would have been for one of the short-story anthologies I edited with Graeme Lay though I have no idea which, because the publisher didn’t pass on that information.) It is easy for CLL or whichever RRO (reproduction rights organisation – this is an acronym-intensive business) is handling the licensing and apportioning revenues to identify the editors because their names are recorded in the metadata: the names of the authors are not. It would be a huge job to get this information: as I observed earlier, “Perfect sampling would be so expensive that there would be no money left over for authors or publishers.”

In my case the cheque I received was around $20-30; Graeme would have received the same, so let’s say there was $60 to distribute. The book was most likely Home, published in 2005. It contained 100 short stories. Assuming that CLL could get a copy and track down all the writers, each one would have been entitled to a payment of 60 cents. The process would have cost hundreds of dollars. Cui bono? There may be a way around this but no one anywhere in the world has figured it out yet.

I was in the CLL office last week talking with its dynamic new (since mid-2010) CEO Paula Browning. She said her next meeting was with a certain major publisher about whether they might consider telling authors which books have contributed to their CLL payment.

“Have you been reading my blog?” I asked.

She smiled enigmatically.

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