Despite the ongoing success and growth of the creative industries sector in the UK, there has been an ongoing decline in authors’ earnings, notably since the advent of widespread digital access. The APWG has led an inquiry into authors’ earnings and produced a report which furthered our understanding of how writers earnings have changed and put forward a series of recommendations to Government on how this can be improved. The APWG will continue to lobby the Government on these asks particularly as we move into recovery of the Creative Sector post-Covid.
The APWG will continue to encourage authors’ organisations to work with industry to establish high-level principles and best practice standards to apply to contracts between authors and those exploiting their works. In addition to the progress made in this area, Brexit not withstanding, we will lobby the Government to adopt the measures in the pending EU legislation on fairer contracts for creators.
The APWG seeks to establish a clear line of communication between the Government and the creative workforce, including freelancers, to assist policy making and recovery. We know that the industry side of the creative sector has a channel of communication with Government through the Creative Industries Council, there is no similar mechanism accessible for creators themselves. The pandemic has made it clear that a greater level of understanding of the freelance workforce is necessary to support writers moving forward particularly if we want to tackle issues such as inclusion and diversity.
Brexit and copyright exhaustion
As we have left the EU, we begin the process of transfering a significant amount of EU legislation on copyright into British legislation through the Repeal Bill. There is also the question of the extent to which the UK will adopt the new legislation resulting from the current EU copyright reform programme. Throughout these processes and debates we must argue for a balanced approach preserving a writer’s right to be fairly remunerated for the use of their works.
A recent development in copyright legislation, as a result of Brexit, has been an Intellectual Property Office consultation on the exhaustion regime in the UK. Any change to this regime would have a significant impact on the way authors’ books are distributed globally and the levels of parallel imports of works back into the UK. This would affect the publishing industry as a whole and writers incomes. The APWG will continue to raise this issue with the Government to ensure that writers are supported by the intellectual property framework in the UK and are remunerated correctly for their work.
To learn more about upcoming issues on authors rights, you can find briefings from a range of organisations here.
UK PLR has proved such a success in sustaining our writers and is seen as a model throughout Europe and now even in developing countries such as South Africa. It was achieved by a combination of the practical solutions devised by writers and the support of MPs of both Houses, against misunderstanding and outright opposition, in providing the necessary legal framework.
We are now, through technological changes, in a similar situation to that of the great post World War II explosion in library use, and once again we need the help of MPs to provide equitable and workable solutions for a growing problem that threatens the creative base of our industry.
Author, playwright and poet.
Honorary president of the ALCS and President of Honour of the British Copyright Council.