On 8 July in the Churchill Room at the House of Commons there was a debate: 'Are we all on the same page? Can a fair deal for authors be balanced with a fair deal for all?'
The debate was organised by The Authors' Licensing & Collecting Society who invited writers and other professionals from the creative industries, politicians and broadcasters to debate the issue of what type of marketplace gives authors the best opportunity to make a living at a time when the perception of copyright by the public is seen as a barrier to free and easy access to the works of creators and when 'sharing' on-line content is not considered theft.
A technological revolution has brought greater opportunities for the commercial exploitation of works. This debate was asking whether the rights and interests of creators were now the weakest link in the value chain. And if so, what could be done to address it.
Baroness Floella Benjamin chaired the panel which included Wendy Cope, poet, Joanne Harris, novelist, Richard Mollet, Chief Executive of the Publishers Association and Richard Hooper, chairman of The Copyright Hub.
We were told that now is a really important time for authors regarding their copyright and their ability to make a living from their creativity. Recent research carried out by ALCS, ‘What are Words Worth Now?’ looking into authors' earnings, showed that digital use earnings are going up but overall incomes are coming down and the proportion of professional authors who earn a living solely from writing has fallen from 40% to 11%. Professional authors are earning less than the Minimum Income Standard (the acceptable standard of living) in the
UK while the creative industries are a
world-leading success story. If writers are going to continue to make their
vital contribution to the economy, they need to receive fair remuneration for
their work; indeed, all creators have a right to be paid for their work. UK
I was interested in what Richard Hooper, chairman of The Copyright Hub had to say. Having recently completed a review for the Government into copyright licensing, Richard Hooper argued that instead of legislation, there should be copyright education and that licensing should become fit for purpose. He said there needed to be an effective database with a micro payment system in place to make it easier for the public (especially schools and colleges) to contact creators to ask for permissions and to pay to use their works; failure to do so would result in an email saying a theft had been spotted.
It was all very interesting but, sadly, with the big internet service providers like Google invariably absent, would anything concrete ever come out of this debate?