Thursday, October 01, 2009

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:
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."

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 (" 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.
Derek Finkle
Canadian Writers Group

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Go get 'em, Tiger.

4:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep up the fight!

Hey, DB. I tried linking to this post/blog on Facebook and got the following message: Warning: This Message Contains Blocked Content. Some content in this message has been reported as abusive by Facebook users.

What's with that? What's abusive?

4:13 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gosh, did Mr. Finkle really use "lead to" instead of "led to"?

-- Nitpickers Anonymous

7:55 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Transcontinental ARE in the book publishing business and have been for many years. A number of their brands are in book form with more to follow.

8:40 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In order to continue to have a healthy viable Canadian magazine industry, (of which I am a loving, long standing contributor) a resolution to this standoff needs to be reached. Some public clarification about the relationship between rights and purchase fees may help.

Are the writers objecting to the rights purchase Transcontinental is making within this contract, or are they objecting to the price being offered for these rights? There is no additional payment being offered for the additional rights purchase. Isn't this really the crux of the issue?

Are the writers looking for an increased payment for these additional rights? If more money makes the contract workable, that should be said.

In order to survive, publishers need more control over the content of their brands across a number of media platforms. Writers should be paid according to the value of their work. Each side has valid and urgent business concerns. Please work it out.

12:02 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Please work it out"? Wow! Why didn't we think of that?

What do you think Finkle, PWAC et al were trying to do? If you're such a longstanding lover of/contributor to the industry, just what do you think was going on? Where do you think the intransigence lies?

There has been no discussion of extra fees from Transcon because they are unwilling to pay for the rights they want. They want it all, and they don't want to pay extra.

Work that out.

4:45 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Working that out, is called negotiation. Of course the publishers are not going to offer more money up front. There is little to go around. Perhaps saying "yes" to more rights, on the basis of more payment, rather than just saying "no", is a starting point.

11:28 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And perhaps fairies gently sprinkle moon dust on our heads while we sleep.

How blind are you? This is not a negotiation. The is an ultimatum.

12:57 pm  

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