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UK creatives advocate for fair pay and the protection of creators' rights in the Culture, Media, and Sport Select Committee.

Richard Combes (ALCS), Andy Harrower (Directors UK), John Hollingworth (Actor and member of BECS), Reema Selhi (DACS)  speaking to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee
Vanessa Giorgo

Today the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee hosted a session where four organisations, The Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (Writers, ALCS), British Equity Collecting Society (Actors and Performers, BECS), the Design & Artist Copyright Society (Visual artists, DACS) and Directors UK (TV and Film directors), gave evidence exploring the issues around creator remuneration in the UK.

Dame Caroline Dinenage MP, Committee Chair, asked about the working practices across the creative industries, including the increased precariousness of employment and continual falling remuneration for creators. The Covid-19 pandemic brought a sharp focus on these long-standing issues, at a time when many freelance creatives were locked out of support schemes.

Key issues for UK creators that were highlighted included:

  • Creators rely on a wide portfolio of earnings from commissioned work, sales, as well as royalties to sustain their careers.
  • 49% of workers in the creative industries are freelance. Creators are twice as likely to work freelance compared to other industries.
  • Creators’ pay across the creative industries is falling, risking a loss of talent across the sector.
  • The downturn in income has been caused by various factors, including the shift to digital platforms, and advancing technology, neither of which are well covered by established mechanisms for copyright remuneration.
  • UK creatives are at a disadvantage to those in 45 other countries, where private copying levies exist to pay creatives when their works are stored and shared across digital devices. Read more about private copying levies.
  • Without addressing issues of UK creator remuneration, the Government risks undermining its aims for the creative industries, to increase social mobility through creative careers.

All four organisations made the following recommendations to the Committee: 

  1. The UK Government should appoint a freelancer commissioner to better understand the issues of freelance workers.
  2. The UK Government should introduce a private copying scheme into law to compensate creators and performers, and to protect income from overseas by creating reciprocity between the UK and other countries.
  3. DCMS and the IPO should engage further on how to improve the regulatory landscape and ensure that fair, equitable payment to creators and performers is a priority.
  4. There should be further research into comparative value loss between UK creators and performers and their counterparts overseas.

Leave copyright exceptions alone. Meddling with this policy leaves the door open for Big Tech companies to push for deregulation. We need to look at what other countries are doing and how they are pushing for creator remuneration.

Our proposal, the Smart Fund, will address issues of creator remuneration for a wide range of creators and performers. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel: it echoes private copy levies in 45 countries, which are established and successful. Government is in a prime position to make a workable solution fit for the UK, which would bring vital income to underpaid creators and performers.

Reema Selhi
Head of Policy & international, DACS

Many freelancers have fallen through the gaps in government support and due to the nature of freelance work there is no special consideration made for how tax and benefits relate to such workers, but we cannot afford to lose this creative pool. A Freelancer Commissioner would help Government understand and navigate the issues of freelance work, and many of the issues that UK creators face.

Richard Combes
Deputy CEO, ALCS

UK performers’ income is becoming more precarious than ever. Since the UK has left the EU they are losing out on some of the statutory payments that were previously available when their work was used in Europe. The UK Government has an opportunity to alleviate this loss by introducing a statutory private copying scheme in the UK, the Smart Fund, similar to schemes already operating in 45 countries around the world.  As well as providing a much-needed additional revenue stream to compensate them when their work is privately copied and shared in the UK, this would also address the issue of reciprocity. This would help our world leading performers to continue to entertain us, boost our economy and the UK’s reputation abroad.

Jess Winchester
Legal Counsel, BECS

Protecting creators’ income is vital, especially as the last few years have seen more directors than ever out of work, whether due to the global pandemic or the current TV and film production slowdown. Royalty payments might be the only income our members have to live off during these periods.

The sad reality for many directors, even those who are in work, is that the creative industries are dependent on underpaid creators and workers. Introducing a private copying scheme in the UK would be an incremental source of income that goes some way to addressing that problem. It would also level the playing field in line with how creators are remunerated in other countries.

Andy Harrower
CEO, Directors UK

The DCMS Select Committee is expected to produce a report after the session.

Information on some of issues highlighted in the Committee, and personal stories of people working in the creative industries are available online.

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