We are campaigning for a review of laws applicable to creator contracts, introduction of legislation to address unfair contract terms and fair sharing of reward throughout the value chain.
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 we are asking for?
Our aims 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 “bestseller clauses” 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 return 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.
Legal reform in Europe
A 2014 EU study showed that the UK is lacking the legal frameworks which protect creators in many other EU countries. It also showed that EU creators are often subject to onerous contracts and do not receive a fair share of the reward for their creativity.
We support the provisions in relation to transparency and fairness (the so-called “transparency triangle”) contained in Articles 14 to 16 of the EU’s draft Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. The triangle consists of:
- Regular accounting
- A contract adjustment mechanism (or “bestseller clause”) allowing authors to claim additional remuneration when sales are much better than expected.
- A dispute resolution mechanism.
The Directive is due to be agreed by the EU at the end of 2018. We urge that the Transparency Triangle is brought into both EU and domestic legislation at the earliest opportunity. You can read our views on the Copyright Directive here.