Sunday, 7 November 2010

Rearing its head (again).

The last phrase of my previous blog could not have been more prophetic. It has slipped out (an entirely apposite way of doing business as far as the current UK government is concerned - they are all so slimy things cannot help but slip out, slide out, ooze disgustingly around our feet giving off a bad smell…) Sorry, where was I (apart from expressing a loathing so deep it makes me physically ill).

Ah, yes. It has slipped out that the ConDems want to review copyright law in the UK. Details are vague, but the gist of it is that they want to make it easier for those poor, suffering, cash-strapped corporations like News Corporation, Sky, Google, Facebook and so on to use work by creative folk and not have to pay for it.

We’ve already had a bout of whining from people who think that creatives should not have their work copyrighted after they die. Thus depriving their families - who have probably lived in poverty for decades - from reaping any reward for supporting someone who has spent their lives entertaining and enlightening others.

In the last few days we’ve had the explosion of wrath over a cookery magazine that has been stealing other people’s work and when challenged the ‘editor’ (who is clearly ignorant about copyright law as it currently exists) had the audacity to try to charge the complainant for editorial work (which did not need doing). That isn’t just ignorance; that is bullying.

Bullying is what the big corporations are good at. They buy politicians to do it for them, but it goes on just the same. The only thing we get to vote for these days is which particular bunch of scum-sucking CEOs we want in charge of us. The rest makes no difference at all. At the moment it is banks and media corporations who call the shots. They don’t want to have to pay us anything, although they do want us to keep feeding them. Perhaps they will eventually realise that a parasite needs to keep its host alive and reasonably healthy - other wise when the host dies the parasite dies with it.

Of course, it is not an equal relationship. The host can exist without the parasite. When the host wakes up to that fact, we can but hope that the parasite is removed and squashed under heel.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Level the field.

I recently received a little brown envelope containing a slip of paper. It was from the Royal Society of Literature informing me that I hadn’t won a short story competition. It went on to list those who had.

One of the names looked familiar so I did an online search. And was left more than a little annoyed.

Before I go any further, let me say that I had no expectation of winning this competition, but like the optimist I can sometimes be, I thought I’d give it a go. So this is not a rant about how my genius is being overlooked. It is about being fair.

My search revealed that one of the runners-up was a story that had just been published by Virago in a short story collection. Yet the rules of the competition clearly state that entries should be stories not previously published.

I emailed the RSL and asked them about this. The response was mealy-mouthed at best: the story had not been published at the time it went before the judges.

Technically I suppose this is true. Yet that story will have been seen by an agent, accepted for publication, and passed through the hands of a professional editor by the time it was entered into the competition. I entered a story that was all my own work from start to finish.

If anyone is going to take money from entrants to a competition, the competition needs to be fair. Transparently so. The RSL needs to make its rules a little more comprehensive and explicit.

I am sure quite a few people entered that competition in the belief they were being given an even chance to win. That some people may have entered work that had gone through a number of external editorial processes undermines that belief.

It is hard enough as it is to get a foot on the publishing ladder these days. Winning or being given an honourable mention in a prestigious competition certainly does no harm. However, it seems even that route in is compromised.

To those that have…