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Celebrating 40 Years of Protecting Artists’ Rights

As DACS turns 40, our Chief Executive, Christian Zimmermann looks back at the past four decades and explains why protecting artists' rights is more important than ever.

Six people sitting on a stage and discussing
As part of UK’s AI summit in January 2024, DACS convened a panel at the AI Fringe at the British Library, exploring the potential impacts of AI models on creators and their IP rights.

At a time of economic uncertainty and rapid technological change, DACS' mission to champion, protect, and manage artists' rights remains more important than ever.

Christian Zimmermann
DACS Chief Executive

DACS is turning 40 this year and to celebrate, throughout 2024 we will publish a series of essays and interviews under the banner of 40 Years of Protecting Artists’ Rights.

Established in 1984, DACS was founded by a small group of artists and lawyers with a core mission, to promote artists’ rights. Their goal was to provide artists with legal advice on copyright, contracts, and other art-law challenges, to handle rights administration and to collect the royalties owed to artists for the use of their work. Fast forward to 2024, and this core mission is still what is driving DACS today, being a prominent advocate for visual artists' rights, not only in the UK but globally. We have been instrumental in distributing significant royalties, totalling over £200 million since our inception, and continue to secure over £16 million annually for 82,000 artists and estates.

For forty years DACS has campaigned and advocated for artists’ rights, influencing policy and UK Government on copyright law, fair pay, royalties, and regulation. From DACS' Payback scheme, which began in 1999 and enables visual artists, illustrators, photographers, and creators to claim collective licensing royalties for artworks featured in UK publications and on TV; to securing the Artist’s Resale Right (ARR) in UK law, which generates substantial annual revenue for artists and estates. With the support of DACS’ sister society network and global organisations like CISAC and WIPO, DACS continues to advocate for a global level playing field, ensuring a supportive legal environment in which artists are free to create and receive fair payment for the use of their work.

Today, DACS is at the forefront of advocating for the support and protection of artists in the UK, both now and in the future. Recently, we have joined forces with other Collective Management Organisations who work on behalf of writers, directors, and performers to campaign for the introduction of royalties for works shared on devices such as smart phones and laptops, and we are taking the lead on ensuring that visual artists are protected as AI continues to develop.

This anniversary is a moment to recognise that artists' rights are vital for sustaining artistic practice, enriching culture, and significantly contributing to the UK's £108 billion creative industries. Every day, artists’ works are used online and across social media, and they fuel our vibrant art market and museum sector. This is also a moment to look ahead to a future full of opportunities. Over the coming years, we will witness the emergence of new art forms, new methods of artistic practice, new means of communication, and crucially, new models of remuneration, copyright, and licensing.

On behalf of DACS, I wholeheartedly thank, not only our current and past staff and board, but in particular the thousands of artists and estates who are members, whose dedication and support have been crucial to DACS' success.Here's to another 40 years of advocating for a society that recognises, respects, and values all artists.