The UK’s Society of Authors Takes Aim at Unfair Contracts, Treatment of Authors

the society of authorsThe Authors Guild has been getting a lot of press for its Fair Contract Initiative, but it’s not the only pro authors group agitating for better treatment.

Over in the UK The Society of Authors has announced that they’re going to be pushing for better treatment of authors not just in terms of the contracts they sign with publishers but also when said authors are invited to speak at events.

Arguing that ” all authors should be paid for making public appearances”, The Society of Authors points out that time spent going to an event represents lost income to the author:

Authors earn their living as freelancers and giving appearances means the loss of other work and income. They must be properly compensated for their time, including that taken up by preparation and travel, and the cost of transport and accommodation must be considered. Payment in kind is not an acceptable alternative and authors should not feel ungrateful for asking for a fee, or be put under any pressure to waive payment.

The Society of Authors plans to create a set of suggested “best practices” guidelines for book fairs, and they also plan to raise the issue of payments for author appearances with funding bodies such as the Arts Council and the British Council. The goal would be to make the funding contingent upon authors getting paid for their time, which is only fair given that authors are often one of the main draws at this event.

The SOA also announced last week that it was “campaigning vigorously at a national, European and worldwide level to guard authors against onerous contracts and to ensure copyright is protected as a means of ensuring that creators are remunerated”. This is an ongoing effort and the group reports some success in lobbying at an EU level.

They report that:

The European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs Report on copyright reform (the Reda Report) has now been adopted. Along with other bodies we have been lobbying the Committee to recognise the interests and rights of authors and other creators as this Report will influence the European Commission’s proposed legislation for the digital economy and the single digital market.

As a creator, I’d rather see more attention be paid to the rights of the consumer. I think there are too many laws that strip what few rights consumers have. The DMCA, for example, effectively negates any pretense of property rights a consumer might have over their digital purchases.

That said, I do agree with the SOA when it comes to author-publisher contracts, although I don’t know that legislation is the right way to go.

The group is continuing its efforts to protect authors from onerous contracts. They asked that authors support them by completing a survey (it expired on Sunday). The survey results are going to be used to push for new laws to regulate author-publisher contracts.

image by ActuaLitté

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. fjtorres23 June, 2015

    “A rising tide lifts all boats” and everybody is more or less happy but when it is dropping, the fighting starts.

    Right now, the best answer to tradpub contracts is “don’t tradpub”.

    1. fjtorres23 June, 2015

      Try this clause:

      “5. Grant of Exclusive Rights Author grants Publisher exclusive rights to the Work, unless this agreement is terminated for any reason, for the full term of all copyrights throughout the world, in all languages, forms, versions, editions, and written or printed media now and hereafter known. Publisher’s exclusive rights include, without limitation, the right to reproduce, publish, display, distribute, sell and license copies of the Work, in whole or in part, and to license and authorize others to do so. Author may, with Publisher’s consent, license other parties to reproduce, display, perform, distribute and sell copies of the Work, so long as such copies are not directly competitive with Publisher’s. Publisher shall also have the right to edit, revise and abridge the Work, subject to Author’s approval with respect to style and literary content thereof, which approval shall not be unreasonably withheld.”

  2. […] column crossed my desk only hours after I reported on the UK Society of Authors efforts to secure better treatment for authors, so I can't help but wonder whether his focus is […]

  3. Do Standards Help or Hinder Innovation? | Digital Book World24 June, 2015

    […] More Calls for Better Terms for Authors (Ink, Bits & Pixels) Late last month the Authors Guild launched a program designed to help authors press for more equitable contracts and push back against clauses the organization sees as especially “draconian” in the digital age. Now the Society of Authors, a UK-based group, lends its own voice to the campaign for contract reform, adding that authors should be compensated for public appearances. […]

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