by Les May
The above image of the RAP front page is copyright
and Northern Voices has been given permission to use it.
TUCKED away in the 'Acknowledgements' section of the hardback edition of the book 'Smile for the Camera' by Rochdale MP, Simon Danczuk and his aide Matthew Baker, is a line crediting the Rochdale Observer for some of the photographs used in the book. That's curious because there are no photographs in the book. It seems that the authors were so keen to get the book out that they dropped the pictures.
The cynical amongst you might think this was to make sure that it appeared before the 2014 local election, and so give them a stick to beat the Rochdale Lib-Dems with, because until 1992 Cyril Smith had been the local Lib-Dem MP. If it was, the plan rapidly backfired when it was pointed out that at the time Cyril was spanking bottoms at Cambridge House he was a member of the Labour party.
This little mystery was solved when the paperback version came out in 2015. Sure enough here were the photographs. But amongst them was an image that was uncredited. It was a picture of the front page of the first edition of the Rochdale's Alternative Paper (RAP) dated November 1971, which had a cartoon of a Cyril Smith shaped barrage balloon hanging over Rochdale Town Hall and the authors had not sought the permission of the joint editors of RAP, David Bartlett and John Walker before using it.
Unsurprisingly, John Walker wrote to Ian Dale, Managing Director of the book's publishers Biteback Publishing, to point this out.
'No permission was sought, or obtained, from the editors of RAP for such a reproduction. I have been advised that this unauthorised and unacknowledged reproduction is a breach of copyright. I am further advised that an appropriate reproduction fee for the use of the image - illustrative of much of the content of the book - would be £1,000.'
Now if you think that this is rather a lot money to ask for the use of an image bear in mind that Mr Danczuk appears to have made rather a lot of money from the reproduction of images of his good self, as well as from the Daily Mail serialisation rights of the book. Also, bear in mind that the image had been published without permission being sought and that, as we shall see, Hell would have frozen over before permission would have been granted.
None of this money was set to go into the pocket of John Walker or David Bartlett. The letter continued:
'My wife and I run a small educational charity in The Gambia ( see www.SohmSchoolsSupport.org.uk for full details of its activities, status and legitimacy).
'It would be my intention, that after agreement with my RAP co-editor, the reproduction fee should be paid to the Sohm charity, as indeed have other small fees for articles paid to me, relating to the story.'
The first response from Ian Dale was to claim that it was a newspaper masthead, and hence was free of copyright.
So John Walker tried again:
'Good effort for being dismissive and avoiding the substance of mine of the 4th.
'I can only assume that it was a desire to respond quickly that meant you didn't fully read my letter, nor refer to the image reproduced in Smile for the Camera, before composing and sending it.
'The image reproduced was not simply the 'masthead' of the first edition of RAP, but the full front page - featuring a magazine-commissioned cartoon, that is probably four times the size of the masthead. Are you saying that you believe this is not subject to copyright? A strange stance from a publisher, I would have thought.
'Had it only been the masthead that was reproduced, I think that, even by the slack attention to detail standards evidenced in the book, the caption writer to the RAP image would have managed to notice that the publication's title (as clearly shown in the masthead) was Rochdale's Alternative Paper. It was not 'Rochdale's Alternative Press', as the caption, along with such other references to the publication in the book, has it.'
This produced an apology from Ian Dale and an admission of liability in the form of an offer of £75.
The third letter from John to Biteback's Managing Director, Ian Dale, explained why this sum was inadequate:
'Thank you for your letter of 15 March, accepting that you have been in breach of copyright and face a liability over the unauthorised reproduction of the front cover of the first edition of Rochdale's Alternative Paper, in the paperback edition of Smile for the Camera.
'I have been in contact with lawyers and IP (ed: intellectual property) specialists who advise me that your opening gesture of a settlement is inadequate, for a number of reasons:
'Firstly, the right to use the image was neither sought, nor given, prior to publication.
'Second, this transgression is aggravated by the fact that if not you, certainly the book's authors, would have known that permission would not have been given for the reproduction, had it been sought. I won't bore you with a tedious timeline of events, or supporting documents, if you don't already know the background, but I'm sure the authors will agree that there has been a considerable rift between us over rights and potential authorship of the book. Even they accept, begrudgingly, and in a grossly understated way, my role in the book's gestation, in its Acknowledgements section. Should you want full chapter and verse of my disagreement with them I will happily supply it.
'Third, the now iconic cover cartoon of the first edition of Rochdale's Alternative Paper, which you reproduced, without accurate acknowledgement of source or recognition of copyright ownership, is in fact, central to the claims made in the book about Smith's dominating and all-powerful role in Rochdale politics in the 1960s and 1970s. This, in some ways, enables them to make some pretty far-fetched claims about Smith - unverified - knowing that readers would accept them because 'The Fatman' could apparently get away with anything.
'In these circumstances my advice is that a fee of £250 would be a reasonable one, made of course, to the Gambian charity, of which I have previously written (details below).'
Three weeks later with no response from Biteback, and no money put into the account of the Sohm school charity John Walker wrote:
'I note that you have neither replied to my letter of 3 April, nor deposited a payment into the Sohm Schools Support bank account.
'Out of courtesy, I must tell you that should there have been no response by the 1st, May, I shall escalate this matter.'
Ian Dale's initial view that the sum asked for was 'above the going rate' is seriously mistaken. Had permission been sought first such a comment would have been in order because a market would have existed. In this case he would have been free to accept or decline the price being asked for permission to publish the image. The price could have been quite high because of the 'scarcity value' of the image there being no other supplier. That is how markets work. Simply taking and using the image means that no market exists and the question changes from, 'Is this a fair price?' to 'What is my lawyers bill likely to be?'
Taking and using an image without first obtaining permission amounts to theft of intellectual property, which is hardly something one would expect an MP to want to be associated with. Both authors had a responsibility to alert the publisher about possible copyright issues. As they credit the Rochdale Observer for some of the photographs they were clearly aware of this.
To his credit Ian Dale paid the £250 fee requested. I hope that he recovered it from Danczuk and Baker because by paying up he 'pulled their coals out of the fire'.
If John Walker feels a bit aggrieved at the way Danczuk and Baker have written him out of the Smith story I can understand why. This is what he told me in an e-mail, relating to the genesis of the Danczuk/Baker book in 2012:
'I tried to get the Smith case re-opened (ed: after revelations about Savile were aired in October 2012), and as a result met up with current Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk to suggest writing a book on the subject (me to write, him to front).
'He seemed very keen. We got to the point of me drafting a lengthy synopsis and meeting up with an agent, who ended up arranging for a publication.
'It was at this point Danczuk ditched me and worked with his then press secretary to produce a book Smile for the Camera, published by Biteback Publishing. It became quite a hit, and attracted a lengthy serialisation in the Daily Mail.
'I was more than a little upset that I had been cut out of this process and contacted Danczuk along these lines. I suggested that by way of compensation he made a donation to a charity my wife and I run in The Gambia (Sohm Schools Support - see below for details). He ignored this.'
Referring to the cartoon on the cover of the first edition of RAP, John Walker emphasised a point I have made repeatedly in my reviews of Smile for the Camera; that the majority of Danczuk and Baker's claims cannot be verified:
'It was clearly used to depict Smith as Danczuk wanted him to be seen, and implicitly acknowledged the source (RAP) of the ONLY independently verified bit of Danczuk's sensational claims in the book.' (see Les May's review of 'Smile for the Camera' on NV Blog)
John Walker had originally been in contact with Danczuk about making a contribution to his African charity at the time of the original publication of Smile for the Camera, in recognition of his role in its emergence. He had suggested that if the Danczuk contribution were significant, it could result in a facility at the Sohm school being named after him, to reflect his contribution (e.g. The Simon Danczuk library, or dining room). Danczuk ignored this, and made no contribution.
As it happens, a new toilet block is currently under construction at the Gambian school, partially funded by John Walker's charity. With the approval of the school principal, this is likely to be formally named and branded the Simon Danczuk block, when next John visits the village
I'm promised a photo of it so I'll post it on the NV blog.
If NV readers feel they would like to make a donation to the new toilet block in recognition of Mr Danczuk's contribution to political life since he was elected MP in 2010, I am sure it will be gratefully received. The web address is given below. To make a dreadful pun:
'Don't just sign a petition about Danczuk, do something concrete'.
In my now distant school days it was common to hear a lad say he was 'going for a crap'. No doubt in future, Gambian youngsters will be heard to say 'I'm going for a Danczuk!'.
How singularly appropriate.