Derek Finkle of Canadian Writers Group responds to Marcoux statements
Derek Finkle of the Canadian Writers Group responds to statements by Pierre Marcoux of Transcontinental:
Canadian Writers Group
1) Marcoux should not have been surprised to learn yesterday that fourteen groups - not just PWAC and CWG - had serious concerns about his company's new Master Author Agreement. The letter sent to Jacqueline Howe back in June that lead to our meeting on July 16, was signed by ten groups, in addition to CWG and PWAC. David and I both made it clear during the meeting that we were there representing all of these groups, which accounted altogether for thousands of writers. We also mentioned that Michael Levine of Westwood Creative Artists had planned to be at the meeting but had to leave town on short notice that day. Further, when I spoke with Pierre Marcoux on September 1, and he informed me that Transcontinental Media was now unwilling to make any changes to its contract, I told him that all of the groups represented at the meeting would continue to oppose the contract - only now we would be doing so "in a very public fashion." Those were my exact words. Marcoux was silent for a few moments before he said, "Okay."Derek Finkle
2) Marcoux says his only intention for the meeting on July 16 was to clarify the contract. As it turned out, we were the ones who showed up at the meeting with a media lawyer. At one point, when discussing why Transcontinental publications needed the non-exclusive copyright outlined in clause 1.2, Jacqueline Howe said it would allow Transcon editors to go on television shows to discuss features in her magazines (the example she cited was a story about new barbecues). Our lawyer, Iain MacKinnon, said that they didn't need clause 1.2 for such an activity, as this would be covered under fair usage. Marcoux also conceded that Transcon was not likely to get into the book, movie, or television businesses, to which MacKinnon replied, "Then why do you need to ask for all of these rights?" I don't recall there being a reply, though it appears from your conversation with him that they are consciously preparing for the day when they may very well be in those businesses.
I would add that towards the end of the meeting, Marcoux said that he was not a lawyer and that he would arrange for us to speak to one of their lawyers in Montreal. I asked him how long it would take to address some of our concerns because we had a number of writers with stories on hold because of this contract. He said he figured it could be taken care of in a couple of days (it wasn't). David and I both left that meeting under the distinct impression that our conversation with their lawyer would be about making amendments to the contract (it wasn't).
3) Marcoux did point out to us that the Author Master Agreement only pertains to the Brand in question, not the Publisher (Transcontinental). First, I would point out that the contentious clause 1.2 refers to the Publisher, not the Brand ("...as well as to authorize others to do so on behalf of or in association with the Publisher." Second, as we told Marcoux and Howe, it doesn't really matter to the writer whether it's Transcontinental or one of its brands taking on non-exclusive copyright to make TV shows etc. It's a distinction without a difference, really.
4) I have heard from many writers who've spoken to editors at Transcontinental about this contract. All of these writers have been told that if they don't sign the Master Author Agreement, they won't get paid. In fact, I've seen an email from an editor at Transcontinental to a writer that says editors at Transcon were told to use the new contract as of July 16. July 16 just happens to be the day of our meeting at Transcontinental, for what it's worth. Coincidence? The same editor then tells the writer that she can't assign anything to the writer without a signed Master Agreement because that would put the writer at risk for not getting paid. So I'm not sure the editors working under Marcoux have been told about this flexibility regarding the contract. It sounds like it's actually the opposite.
5) Howe mentioned during our meeting that it took her and her colleagues a year to put this new Master Author Agreement together. I asked her if she consulted any writers or writers groups during this process. I also asked if she'd consulted any editors at Transcontinental regarding the new contract.I leave it to your imagination what her answers were. She then went on to say that she'd consulted a number of contracts at other companies during the process. She happened to mention a couple of large American publishing outfits that pay three to four times what her publications usually offer. I suggested that she was comparing apples and oranges. There are a couple of other troubling contracts at use in Canada, though no one I know of licenses copyright permanently on a non-exclusive basis. I'm sure that Transcontinental's valued contributors would have hoped Marcoux had aimed a little higher than "certainly not the worst" when formulating a progressive and fair new freelance agreement.
Canadian Writers Group