Without union and collective action we are helpless. When we begin working, we are so poor and so busy that we have neither the time nor the means to defend ourselves against the commercial organisations which exploit us. When we become famous, we become famous suddenly, passing at one bound from the state in which we are, as I have said, too poor to fight our own battles, to a state in which our time is so valuable that it is not worth our while wasting any of it on lawsuits and bad debts. We all, eminent and obscure alike, need the Authors’ Society. We all owe it a share of our time, our means, our influence.
Bernard Shaw, at a Society of Authors dinner in 1906
Since its inception in 1884, the SoA has performed two central roles. One is to support individual authors through advice, information and contract-vetting. The other is to act as a voice for the profession as a whole, representing and advocating for the rights and interests of authors.
- WE CAMPAIGN on issues that impact on authors, and support wider cultural campaigns.
- WE LOBBY Government on issues and areas touching authors and culture more widely.
- WE NEGOTIATE for authors in the industries they operate in, representing their interests to publishers, agents, broadcasters, etc.
- WE REPRESENT the profession to the general public and raise awareness of the value it brings.
We tackle any issue which is of concern to authors as professionals – from copyright and contracts to freedom of speech and Public Lending Right. We also believe authors need, above all, audiences; readers, listeners, viewers. So we also stand up for the importance of culture generally and speak out on the need for it be invested in and valued.
Support and promotion of stable and clear framework for copyright in the UK and at EU and International level, balancing user access and reward for creators. We believe that the current system provides such a balance and would oppose any changes or further widening of exceptions as unnecessary and potentially harmful to creators.
To support the continued development of a modern and flexible copyright licensing regime that strikes a fair balance between accessing material and incentivising creators.
To ensure discussions regarding UK membership of the EU do not detract from the lobbying and participation necessary in the current EU discussion on copyright and the Digital Single Market.
To support and assistance of initiatives for copyright education for the public, creators and users.
The SoA has called for authors and other creators to be protected from onerous contracts. All creator contracts should comply with the following minimum requirements:
C. CLARITY Clearer contracts including written contracts which set out the exact scope of the rights granted.
R. Fair REMUNERATION. Equitable and unwaivable remuneration for all forms of exploitation, to include bestseller clauses so that if a work does far better than expected the creator shares in its success, even if copyright was assigned.
E. An obligation of EXPLOITATION for each mode of exploitation, also known as the 'use it or lose it' clause.
A. fair, understandable and proper ACCOUNTING clauses.
T. TERM. Reasonable and limited contract terms and regular reviews 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. All other clauses be subject to a general test of REASONABLENESS.
REWARDING & VALUING AUTHORS
Public funding of the arts should fully and fairly recognise the value and needs of authors, translators and illustrators.
Government payments to the BBC should be maintained and the BBC should ensure that writers of radio drama receive fair remuneration and extended air time.
Payments for appearances and performances
Authors must be properly paid for festival, performance and other appearances. The government should fund author visits in schools and support other initiatives to boost reading for pleasure.
Public Lending Right
The Government has pledged to maintain PLR payments and to extend PLR to remote library ebook loans. While we welcome the former, we do not at present advocate extending PLR to library remote ebook loans. Instead we will press publishers to work with libraries to agree fair terms with libraries which are transparent and which reward authors for both the lending and the purchase element of a library loan.
Authors, including illustrators and translators, should be properly credited for all uses of their work including a cover credit on every work, standardised and meaningful metadata and recognition in publicity and awards material, listings and library and bookshop cataloguing.
Tax and Benefits
Ensure that the tax and benefits systems adequately recognise and provide for authors and other self-employed creators by recognising and making adjustments for the value of their work and its fluctuating nature.
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION, DIVERSITY & EQUALITY
Scottish and Northern Irish Libel Law
Scottish and Northern Irish libel law differs from that in the rest of the UK and needs reforming to take in the provisions of the Defamation Act 2013.
We will continue to protest against age-ranging and inappropriate gender marketing.
Diversity, in creators and industry professionals, is essential to a strong creative economy and should be encouraged and supported.
A FAIR PLAYING FIELD FOR PUBLISHING AND BOOKSELLING
Countering monopolies and unfair practices
We continue to raise concerns in relation to Amazon, Google and other multinationals when appropriate.
Anomalies in the VAT system should be removed. The zero rate should be applied to digital publications as well as physical books, reflecting the belief that tax should not act as a disincentive to reading and learning.
Circulation of books within the EU is hindered by a varying range of VAT requirements for print and ebooks in different countries. We will press, and encourage others to press, the EU to treat all books (including ebooks) as zero-rated for VAT.
Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)
The ‘cultural exception’ in the trans-Atlantic negotiations on TTIP should recognise the cultural importance of literature and publishing.
Bookshops should be supported by appropriate rate and tax concessions and protection of the high street environment.
Public libraries should be supported and given more funding to ensure a truly comprehensive and efficient service.
A statutory requirement should be introduced for all state-funded schools to have a school library with sufficient books available for all of its children and a nominated library specialist among its staff. Ofsted should include the quality of library provision in its assessment criteria. Schools should be encouraged to work with their local authority public library service to establish a school library fund and create efficiencies in the provision of books to children.
Reading for Pleasure
The Government should promote and support reading for pleasure for adults and children. It should support charity campaigns to boost reading, fund author visits to schools and improve teacher training on reading for pleasure.
Maintain and drive forward a commitment to achieving 100% levels of literacy in children, to a specified time-scale.
If you have an issue or campaign you think we should become involved with please do get in touch.
Read our recent submissions.
The SoA works in partnership with other organisations and sits on international bodies to ensure our messages are heard loud and strong worldwide.