Writers Losing Rights

This is of concern to all writers in Canada, and really elsewhere though the issue of moral rights is called differently in other countries. Following is a letter I drafted and sent to various organizations (PWAC, Canadian Authors Association, League of Canadian Poets, Canadian Writers Union, Writers Guild of Canada, Canadian Poetry Association). If you are a writer in Canada and want to maintain the integrity of your piece and the right to have your name attributed to it, then you should be very concerned with CBC’s rules in their contest and the taking of moral rights. If you are part of a writer’s organization, please voice your concerns to your executive.

Dear members of the writing community;

 

CBC has long supported the arts with various programs including contests. Last year I noticed a contest for a poem on Mark Forsyth’s BC Almanac (Radio One). But when I read the rules and regulations CBC asked for all rights, including moral rights. I thought and hoped that this might just be an error, not to be repeated.

 

However, this year, CBC has been advertising Canada Writes, geared specifically towards writers. The full rules and regulations can be found at: http://www.cbc.ca/canadawrites/rules.html. The paragraph that concerned me was found under 4. Registration:

 

Entry forms become the property of CBC, free of any compensation or charges, and will not be returned to contestants. All submissions must be original and not infringe copyright or the rights of any other party, individual or otherwise, including but not limited to any person, group, entity, or company. By entering the contest, each participant shall waive any and all moral rightsover his/her entry and grant CBC an irrevocable licence to use of the work on-air or online: the entries may be read and aired on CBC Radio One in whole or in part, or online, on any websites or platforms related to the CBC, without any compensation being payable to the participant.

 

While it is not uncommon for some contests to ask for all publishing rights in return for a contest prize, it is highly unusual to ask for moral rights. Any reputable publisher will not ask for such rights and CBC taking this precedent is dangerous. The issue of rights is a complicated and often confusing one. I am no copyright lawyer but as a writer and artist I am concerned with this requirement by CBC. Below is a definition of moral rights:

 

http://www.nolo.com/definition.cfm/Term/D4718204-9904-42DF-8A5C84A64827173D/alpha/M/

In copyright law, rights guaranteed authors by the Berne Convention that are considered personal to the author and that cannot therefore be bought, sold or transferred. Moral rights include the right to proclaim authorship of a work, disclaim authorship of a work and object to any modification or use of the work that would be injurious to the author’s reputation.

 

This is of such concern to me that I cannot conscionably sit back as either a writer or as the president of SF Canada without bringing it to people’s attention. On January 19, I emailed CBC expressing my concerns. I heard nothing. Again I wrote on January 30, asking for a response and should I not receive one by February 6 I would contact as many Canadian writers’ organizations as possible. (If you would like to see a copy of those letters, please contact me and I will send them.)

 

If we ignore this, we set up a precedent for artists losing moral rights, where their works can be altered or attributed to someone else at the whim of the owner. If your organization has already been in contact with CBC and has any news on this issue, I would be interested in hearing what is happening.

 

Over the years, in various ways writers’ works and rights have been jeopardized. With a united voice I believe we can stop this trend and educate people before it becomes entrenched. I must say on a personal level that I am shocked and saddened that CBC would stoop to this level and I sincerely hope it is just the work of overzealous lawyers and can be circumvented.

 

I look forward to talking more with you and finding a solution.

 

Regards,

 

 

Colleen Anderson

President

SF Canada

 

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2 Comments

Filed under art, Culture, entertainment, erotica, fantasy, horror, news, people, poetry, Publishing, science fiction, Writing

2 responses to “Writers Losing Rights

  1. BigDave

    I am an copyright lawyer. In my thirty years experience I have seen a variey of rights sold.This includes moral rights, media rights-you name it rights. Most businesses do it all the time. If you write a memo or a plan (or whatever) for the company you work for, technically that company owns all rights. This  includes authorship. I know this is different, being fiction, but it really is not. I recently represented a client who had written a cookbook. After debating, he sold the rights outright, including authorship. Some would say that was a bad deal. I would disagree. The money he received helped put his kids through college.

    • colleenanderson

      Yes it is often the case when one works for a company but it is not common in fiction and let me tell you, what they’re paying will not cover a trip to the next province let alone put anyone through a couple of courses in college. CBC is asking for all moral rights in contests where only one person wins. They have even stated that by just entering the contest you waive your moral rights. So then they steal my piece and I get nothing in return? I don’t think so. On an individual and case by case basis yes, it may behoove the person to waive their moral rights too. But even with many companies (I think of many of the role playing games) the company owns part and parcel, the game and book you wrote. But you still get a credit. It depends on the company.

      In the world of fiction it is very much not the norm and most publishers don’t do this. Notice I say most. There are always exceptions. If I’m paid enough I might waive all rights but it would take a hefty chunk of cash for moral rights.

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