The Guardian published an article yesterday where the Society of Authors called for the UK gov’t to adopt a proposed EU directive which would protect authors from the take it or leave it contracts offered by online services.
Only, the difference is, the SoA sees this in terms of legacy publishers.
His Dark Materials author Philip Pullman has welcomed a “badly need[ed]” new proposal from the European Commission that would protect authors who achieve unexpected success from missing out on royalties.
Pullman was speaking as president of the Society of Authors, which is pressing the UK government to adopt clauses from the new EU draft directive on the digital single market in order to “avoid unfair practices that currently prevent authors making a living from writing”. The Society highlighted the case of Horrid Henry author Francesca Simon, who has not received any royalties from the television and film adaptations of her Horrid Henry books, despite the series being broadcast in 44 countries with more than 1.5m DVDs sold.
In an article last December, Simon revealed that she was missing out on the royalties because when she sold Orion her first Horrid Henry book in 1993, the book deal included film and television rights. A deal with Novel Entertainment for those rights was subsequently negotiated by Orion. “They did a poor deal. They did not use a lawyer,” wrote Simon in the Author magazine. “Not understanding their proper value led to the worst mistake of my career.”
The new draft directive, released last week, states that authors “often have a weak bargaining position in their contractual relationships, when licensing their rights”, and that “transparency on the revenues generated by the use of their works or performances often remains limited”, with this affecting their remuneration.
One might infer from the author quoted in the article that this directive is focused on legacy publishers, but that would be your assumptions jumping up and blinding you (me, actually) to the real story.
The directive, which you can read here (PDF), covers copyright licensing in the Digital Single Market. It is focused less on the legacy industry than on companies like Amazon, Apple, Pandora, and the like.
The Society of Authors, on the other hand, had a distinctively different take. Go read its statement and you’ll see this group is focused on the legacy publishing industry rather than the new digital opportunities.
That was to be expected, but it’s still a shame. If the SoA really cared about “authors making a living from writing” then what it should be doing is telling authors to go it alone rather than sign contracts with publishers.
Why sign a contract with a book publisher if they are no longer needed to reach the market? Is it really worth giving up a majority of the earnings as well as all control over a work when the average author can earn more without a publisher?
image by Don McCullough