Authors’ earnings are in decline. Poor contract terms are part of the problem.
The Society of Authors supports members through clause-by-clause vetting of any contract. We vet thousands of contracts each year, and we see many that are unfair and to the detriment of authors.
We are working to address the imbalance of the situation through negotiations with publishers and by pushing for legislative reform along with other creator organisations.
What are we asking for?
Our ambition to improve contracts are summarised in the C.R.E.A.T.O.R. acronym.
C – Clarity
Clear contracts, in writing, which set out the exact scope of the rights granted.
R – Remuneration
Fair remuneration. Equitable and unwaivable remuneration for each use/exploitation of the work. This should include a ‘bestseller clause’ so if a work does far better than expected the creator shares in its success, even if copyright was assigned.
E – Exploitation
An obligation upon the publisher to fully exploit the rights it has been granted. Also known as the ‘use it or lose it’ clause, this would see rights returned to the creator if not exploited.
A – Accounting
Fair, understandable and detailed accounting clauses in all contracts to cover royalty payments and other sources of remuneration.
T – Terms
Reasonable contract terms (including time limits) with regular reviews where appropriate to take into account new forms of exploitation.
O – Ownership
Authors, including illustrators and translators, should be appropriately credited for all uses of their work and moral rights should be unwaivable.
R – Reasonableness
All other clauses should be subject to a general test of reasonableness, including a list of defined clauses which are automatically deemed to be void. There should be a general safeguarding provision that any contract provision which causes a significant imbalance in the parties’ rights and obligations to the detriment of the author, should be regarded as unfair. One such example would be indemnity clauses which put all the risk on the author.
These laws are not radical. They already exist throughout many European countries. We urge the UK Government to review the laws applicable to creator contracts and introduce reforms to address unfair contracts.
What are we doing?
We launched the C.R.E.A.T.O.R campaign at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Writers Group in 2015. Since then, the Creators’ Rights Alliance have adopted our campaign and we are working in tandem with partner organisations who represent the interests of other creators to press for reform.
We continue to meet with the Publishers Association, the Independent Publishers Guild and many individual publishers to discuss their contract terms.
Too often creators are offered payment in kind, through ‘exposure’ or ‘opportunity’, rather than financial payment for their work and rights.
We are a member of the Creators’ Rights Alliance (CRA) #PayTheCreator campaign, which brings together the campaigning work of different member organisations to collectively call for creators of all types to be paid properly for their work and to be given the same considerations enjoyed by other workers in the areas of pay, business support and policy making.
EU Copyright Directive
We support the provisions in relation to transparency and fairness contained in Articles 18 to 22 of the EU’s Copyright Directive. These consist of:
- A transparency obligation, which would force publishers to be more transparent when reporting information to authors about the exploitation of their works and the revenues generated.
- A contract adjustment mechanism (or “bestseller clause”) allowing authors to claim additional remuneration when sales are much better than expected.
- A right of reversion, which would enable authors to revoke their rights if they are not being exploited by the publisher.
The Copyright Directive has been agreed by the EU and was published in the Official Journal on 17 May 2019. There follows a 24-month implementation period, and continue to urge the UK Government to implement this vital piece of legislation in spite of the UK’s exit from the EU.
A selection of written evidence we have submitted to Government and industry in relation to CREATOR.