Creators' Rights Alliance - Manifesto for creators - 1: Your unique contribution
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What is needed - 1

Allowing the broadest range of creators to enter creative professions, while encouraging existing creators to support themselves, will be essential to maintaining and improving the quality and quantity of our nation’s intellectual property and cultural character.

The vast majority of creators work as freelancers. To make the most out of the contribution that creative individuals make to our culture and economy, the UK needs legislative and policy frameworks that recognise the value that freelancers contribute to the UK’s culture and economy – particularly in terms of flexibility and diversity of output – and to take account of the unique challenges that freelancers face in sustaining their contribution.

However, working conditions for creators – particularly freelance or independent creators – despite their unique value, can put them at a disadvantage to workers in other sectors.

Reasons for this include:

  • The need to find and manage relationships with a large number of clients, and sporadic work patterns with periodic unemployment;
  • Poor and unpredictable income levels due to irregular payments of fees, royalties and resale rights – plus the necessity to devote unpaid time to research, personal and creative development and administer a micro-business;

  • Poor individual bargaining power;

  • The effects of combining creative work with another job, in order to survive financially;

  • An unpredictable marketplace driven by the need to keep up with fashionable interests;

  • Unavoidable job mobility, leading to isolation and giving a poor bargaining position; and

  • Dependence on intermediaries of various kinds such as agencies, publishers, producers and others3

Individual freelancers rely for their earnings on fees and secondary income from royalties, all usually arising from commissions. They effectively run their own businesses: finding work, building networks, investing in their own training and career development, buying and replacing technical equipment, retaining accountants and investing in their own pension and sickness protection.

Aside from a handful of high-profile stars, creators’ incomes are very modest. In the most recent survey of membership of 1700 of the Society of Authors’ 9000 members, their average total gross income was £16,600. Over three quarters of their members earn less than half the average national wage. In a 2004 survey by the British Academy of Composers & Songwriters of the 36,750 writer members of the Performing Rights Society, only 7% (2500 writers) earned over £10,000.

Their status as freelancers offers advantages to them, their clients and the market. It allows creators freedom to develop their skills through work for a variety of clients, and creates a climate in which the best succeed while the worst leave the industry without fuss. This ensures a steady supply of new talent and ideas to cope with shifting tastes and markets.

However, neither taxation systems nor market conditions provide a comfortable environment in which young entrants can hone both their creative and their business skills. They are frequently viewed by rights exploiters as a cheap and expendable pool of labour.

Understanding, recognising and rewarding the value of freelancers will maximise their chance of gaining just rewards for the key part they play in underpinning our culture, democracy and knowledge economy.

^ Manifesto: 1: Your unique contribution

* 2: Defending your work


3 Da Silva, H. (1999) Report on the Situation and Role of Artists in the European Union. Brussels, European Commission

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