Statutory Licence a win-win for students and creators

April 11, 2013

Authors want to make enough of a living to be able to continue to create original Australian works to be enjoyed by students and the community at large, participants at the recent Copyright Agency Seminar Education:Information, heard.

Author, teacher and parent, Angelo Loukakis, told the seminar the ideal situation was for children to have access to the best of Australian educational resources and, at the same time, for authors like him to be able to make a living.

Loukakis’s response during a panel discussion on Rights and Copyright, is timely given the current debates about the value of digital content for educational outcomes.

“All that authors want out of this scenario, is the chance to keep producing and the statutory licence scheme allows us to do that,” Loukakis said.

Loukakis, who is Executive Director of the Australian Society of Authors, said any assumption that the average author can make a full-time living from royalties or publisher advances was wrong. Apart from a small minority, most Australian authors’ income was modest to poor.

“We are very dependent on supplementary means of income – and very dependent on the key tool which allows us that income, which is copyright.”

The statutory licence, which is paid annually by schools and other educational institutions, allows teachers to provide content to their students in a variety of ways, including by email, learning management systems and photocopies.

“Interestingly, a piece of writing, such as a book, is called a ‘work’ – the reason being it represents effort, labour and time. It sometimes takes a year, two, three, five years to produce a full, long-form work – and during that time the author is backing themselves – unless they have secured an advance – which is fairly rare,” Loukakis said. “We are very dependent on things like the public lending right and educational lending right, as well as the statutory licence, to allow us to continue to produce work for the social and cultural good of Australians.”

Another guest on the panel was Group General Manager of Pascal Press, Jose Palmero. Pascal is Australia’s largest independent education publisher and has grown from a book publisher to having the most successful educational websites in Australia, including Mathletics, Reading Eggs and the new Into Science.

Mr Palmero said the company relied heavily on the revenue generated by the statutory licence to enable it to develop its digital offerings.

“Pascal is a big recipient of Copyright Agency payments because teachers copy a lot of what we do. Sure, we would like to sell more books, but the reality is teachers need to have ready access to our material. Most of the money that comes in from Copyright Agency from photocopying is invested in developing digital products.

“As an independent publisher, without that money it would have been impossible to develop Mathletics, or Reading Eggs, which both employ a large number of authors, developers and designers.

“None of those websites took less than three years to develop and they are multi-million dollar sites. It’s a lot of money to invest in a world-class leading product – and the reality is that, yes, there is a lot of free stuff out there – we are competing against it all the time. But to do something that people are willing to pay for ­– which I guess we were one of the first ones in the market to do – you have to do it at a much higher level of quality and continue investing in it.”

Mr Palmero said despite the world moving to the online space, the feedback from teachers was that they still wanted ‘photocopiable’ materials to hand out in the classroom.

“When we developed Mathletics, we just wanted it to be ‘online’ only and make it completely paperless. But after a few years, we started to get requests from teachers for downloadable PDFs, worksheets and NAPLAN practice tests. We don’t charge more for the subscription (to Mathletics) for these additional features, but we receive supplementary income from Copyright Agency for photocopying of the ‘downloadables’.

“It’s very important, because as a publisher, you want to give the teachers and kids the best possible product. That takes money and effort but, if you know you are getting the supplementary income, it’s worthwhile,” Mr Palmero said.

Copyright Agency’s 2013 seminar Education: Information, part of a two-day program with the Australian Society of Authors and Australian Publishers Association, featured inspiring teachers, educational publishers and authors – as well as our own experts.