We are campaigning for the introduction of legislation to address unfair contract terms and to ensure a fair share 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 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.
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 we are urging the UK Governmnet to implement this vital piece of legislation, regardless of the final Brexit outcome.