“This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin’ it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don’t give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that’s all we wanted to do.” (Woody Guthrie, on ‘This Land is Your Land’)
“…and we too had almost no money for basic teaching i.e. photocopying.” (Quote from ELT News message board)
“Don’t copy albums, keep the music alive!” (printed on rear of Burrito DeLuxe CD)
“Any unauthorized copying, hiring, lending, exhibition, diffusion, sale, public performance or other exploitation of this videogram is strictly prohibited” (Rear cover of ‘A Grand Day Out’ ELT adaptation DVD, OUP)
Taking Woody Guthrie as the extreme end of any copyright debate, he would certainly have enjoyed ‘mechanical’ royalties on any recordings of This Land is Your Land, so called because they are applied mechanically for songwriters and music publishers. And I can assure you that those mechanicals apply (and have applied) for using This Land Is Your Land on ELT audio, plus the publisher pays another sum of money for the right to reproduce the lyrics in print.
“A modern ELT textbook has teams of piloters, editors, designers, picture researchers, illustrators, photographers, photographic models, recording engineers, actors – let alone authors and printers. All of these people have to eat.”
I’ve heard the anti-copyright point of view more than I need to. Without copyright you would soon have precious few books (some would still be written for the love of it), no movies or CDs (they cost too much to make however much the makers love them), only the worst quality ELT books and most of the medicines in the pharmacy would disappear. I’m not quite at the extreme opposite to Mr Guthrie. I believe that it’s wrong to be able to patent strings of DNA, and wrong to effectively withold medicines from poorer countries. But I also believe it’s wrong to purchase or sell pirate DVDs and CDs, wrong to download or copy music without paying for it, and wrong to photocopy ELT books wholesale.
Piracy Piracy is theft, pure and simple. ELT books are pirated in many countries. I get regular requests from Iran for “a copy of the illustrated colour Streamline. We can only get the official unillustrated (!) B & W one here.” I used to get requests for ‘colour Streamline’ from Cambodia and Vietnam. The Cambodian one was half size, B & W and someone had thoughtfully added bad poems to each unit. The various huge-selling pirate editions in the ex-Soviet Union countries were at least colour. We never received a penny from any of them and nor did our publishers. You might say that some (but by no means all) of these countries couldn’t afford the books otherwise. I was sympathetic to early requests from Vietnam (“It will enhance my ability to do private lessons if I’m the only teacher in my town with a real colour copy”) and I even sent them some. But UK publishers have a government-subsidised system to sell (ultra) low-priced textbooks in developing countries. The author would receive very, very little but at least something. These are not taken advantage of because locally-based crooks would rather steal the books and take the money.
We started work on IN English in 1999. The third level came out early in 2005. That’s a lot of work and we don’t get paid at all until royalties come in. A modern ELT textbook has teams of piloters, editors, designers, picture researchers, illustrators, photographers, photographic models, recording engineers, actors let alone authors and printers. All of these people have to eat. If books are widely pirated, they won’t. And teachers won’t get them. Authors work for a carrot: sales. Sometimes, you hit lucky. I’ve done some very successful books. I’ve done books that have barely paid a living wage for the time spent on them. I’ve done books that have earned almost nothing. We take the risk. You could theoretically pay a team of writers to sit in serried ranks at desks, but you get the quality because writers burn the midnight oil. Because they put in a whole hour with two people reworking just one single six-question comprehension sequence, then more time testing and revising it. They do all that in hope!
Photocopying Photocopying laws in those enlightened countries that subscribe to them (UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Netherlands, the Scandinavian countries) allow you to copy a limited amount for personal use and research freely. They allow you to photocopy a limited amount of a book for use with a class too, and select a number of institutions each quarter to make careful records of photocopying. These change every quarter. The author is then paid a small photocopying royalty from a central fund, based on the records. The records are sometimes bizarre, but it was good to see a few pounds come in from my long out-of-print but still used Basic Reading Programme (enough to buy a CD, anyway) and perplexing to wonder who regularly copies 2800 pages from Grapevine Teacher’s Book. I assume it’s the introduction, photocopied by teacher trainers. The Times Educational Supplement called it a mini-teacher training course on publication, and it does seem to be functioning that way. (Japan and the USA are not members of the enlightened group. They should be.)
Photocopying in ELT accelerated in the early 80s when misguided teacher trainers on one month courses decided it was a good idea for trainees with no experience to prepare and assemble their own materials. Why? The expertise that goes into an ELT course can’t be learned in a couple of weeks. You’re invariably better-off following the logic of a course than mixing and matching. Instead of teaching people how to deal with given materials more effectively, they felt it good to have everyone becoming an author before they’d even started teaching. Forget the logic of a progression, forget the complex recycling that any good course provides. Choose whatever takes your fancy and compile a set of photocopied greatest hits. A lesson here from Streamline, add one from Headway. Slip in something from Interchange. It makes a nonsense of the care that went into writing any one of them. One French government body photocopied bits of Streamline, Strategies and Headway, assembled them into a so-called “course”, had the audacity to add their own copyright line and then SOLD the compilation to students without paying a penny. Theft.
The ‘Greatest Hits’ approach for hastily assembling a course is ludicrous to any professional course designer. In teacher training I’ve seen so many greatest hits ragbags of material. Invariably they are based on what someone likes to teach, not a coherent progression through what needs to be taught. We all know that some areas of the language are easy to teach and practise and produce lists and tables of achievement that satisfy students, at least on the surface. That’s why comparatives are awarded far more space in textbooks than they need or deserve. They “teach well”. I don’t think I’ve seen a greatest hits collection that delves into defining and non-defining relative clauses. Students end up with a ring binder full of selective badly copied grubby dog-eared pages which are difficult to review and unappetizing to browse through.
Nowadays a course like IN English provides free photocopiables for class use doing what only photocopiables can do, not just photocopying pages from a book. That is providing something that can’t be read in advance, that can be cut-up (sometimes) and reassembled, classroom games and activities.
Video We suffered even more with video, and in the end illegal copying killed it. Ten of our thirteen videos went out of print, fallen to the copying and piracy. When Grapevine video came out a European school chain wrote to complain that it was copy-protected. They wanted to buy just one copy and use it in ALL their one hundred and forty plus schools. Bad luck. They couldn’t. ELT video was not over-priced. If you had been on the set of English Channel, you’d have seen twenty-five people working a twelve hour day. All need lunch, tea, coffee, dinner. A massive catering cost before they even pay wages. Yes, the video in the shop costs more than a feature film. A feature film sells in hundreds of thousands. We sell in hundreds. If you price it per student who watches it, it’s cheap input. We also have to expect a high level of copying and price that in. If the copying passes a certain point, the publisher simply can’t afford to do it.
If copying really could be eradicated (there are always ways round any protection) the cover price would drop significantly. The honest purchaser is subsidizing the dishonest user.