Good evening everyone and a very warm welcome to this years’ Awards evening.
There were 68 applications for the awards this year which is right on the average number of applications that we’ve had every year for the past 10 years. I would like to personally thank our selection panel for the wonderful job they did with this year’s applications. Each applicant receives equal and robust consideration to ensure that the aims of the awards are met by those who are successful. To Paul Diamond, Gillian Candler, Geoff Walker and Rae McGregor – my thanks.
The New Zealand Society of Authors Research Grants had a huge increase in applications this year over the number received in 2012 and we are delighted that the new President of NZSA, Kyle Mewburn, is able to be with us this evening to present these grants.
I’m always very conscious of my choice of words when I’m either speaking to or writing for a literary audience. Without any form of literary pedigree it’s more than a little intimidating to be the focus of attention in a room full of our top writers and publishers. It’s been especially challenging this year to find the words to describe the past 12 months at CLNZ. This time last year we were looking forward to finalising the next term of our licenses with the New Zealand tertiary sector – but this was not to be. We now find ourselves at the Copyright Tribunal arguing for fair payment for the use of your publications in our universities. This is a stand we must take because Copyright – your right to earn a living from your writing – is under attack. Governments throughout the world are being swayed by the well-funded lobbying of the likes of Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple into changing copyright law in ways that benefit these corporate giants’ business models. We’ve already seen this happen in Canada and the UK and legislative reviews are underway in the United States and Australia.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment recently published a list of 6 business sectors in New Zealand for which it is commissioning reports into their economic value. The first report has been released – it was on ICT or Information and Communications Technology. The other 5 are tourism, petroleum & minerals, construction, high tech manufacturing and something called knowledge-intensive-industries (which is mainly the scientific and technical services sector). No sign of the New Zealand creative sector in that list is there? So if the government doesn’t know what our creative economy is worth, how does it know what it’s potentially trading away in agreements like the TPP?
In the absence of this type of data from the government, the creative industries are busy preparing their own. Film and Television released a report earlier this year that puts its value at close to 3 billion dollars and employment in the industry at over 20,000 people. The New Zealand music industry has a similar report – figures from this are due out soon.
And what does the New Zealand book sector look like? Well hopefully we will have a general idea by the end of this year when the report we have commissioned from PWC is completed. We’ve given the team at PWC a huge challenge however, as the data that’s needed for these economic value reports just isn’t available from the New Zealand book sector. Something else we need to actively work on in the short term.
I’m sure none of us need to be reminded of the dire news that has hit the local publishing sector this year with the withdrawal of multi-national publishers from the New Zealand market and yesterday’s shock announcement of the closure of Learning Media . At an Asia Pacific copyright meeting in Bangkok a couple of weeks ago I joked that soon New Zealand children would be reading about Kangaroos instead of Kiwis. But it’s really not funny. As New Zealanders we’re used to a rich creative culture. We’re used to having access to our own stories in our own books and our own TV programmes; through our own music and our own movies. It’s something we’re inherently proud of as we were able to unequivocally demonstrate at the Frankfurt Book Fair last year.
All of this is at risk if we do not have effective copyright law. Without it, the business model that is the foundation of the creative economy will be worthless.
So what can you do? Do what you do well – write. Whether it’s a blog, twitter, opinion pieces, articles – anything that stimulates informed debate that shows the value of copyright and local publishing to our economy. The time is right to do this now. The government has announced that it has deferred the review of our Copyright Act pending the conclusion of the TPP. This gives us time for a robust discussion. Talk to your friends and family about what copyright means – especially the younger ones. The ones who think it’s OK to post a question on Facebook asking their mates for a copy of their digital movie collection or the ones who share copies of digital textbooks on USB sticks. They want to be able to copy and share, and technology lets them do it easily, but they’re completely removed from the impact that very copying has on our creative economy – they need YOU to tell them!
This year our selection panel commented that the finalists for tonight’s awards are those applications where the passion for their subject is evident. Well New Zealand needs you to get passionate about copyright and your rights as owners of intellectual property. I know it’s not sexy and it’s not an easy dinner party conversation but it is critical to the future of New Zealand writers and New Zealand writing. If we all sit back and think someone else will fight the fight for us, we risk losing the rights we currently have. Now I’m not generally regarded as a drama queen so when I say to you that getting noisy about copyright is critical – I really mean it!!
Right – I hope I’ve reached all of you in some way on the need to get loud about copyright. Now on to the real reason why we’re all here tonight – to celebrate and invest in New Zealand non fiction. At last week’s New Zealand Post Book Awards one of our previous winners took out the General Non Fiction category. We were absolutely delighted for both Steve and for the team at Awa Press on their success with Civilisation – Twenty Places on the Edge of the World. For a girl from Mt Roskill it was a thrill to venture into Place Number 10 in the book and enjoy Steve’s take on how the suburb I grew up in differs now from its earlier times. If there’s anyone in the room who hasn’t lost themselves in Civilisation yet, then it’s time you did!