You should receive fair pay for all uses of your work, throughout the life of copyright.In section 1 we pointed out that, aside from a handful of high-profile stars, creators’ incomes are very modest. In the most recent survey 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 per cent (2500) earned over £10,000.
In a survey of its 53,000 members in 2007, the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society’s (ALCS) found that less than 15 per cent of authors surveyed have received payments for online uses of their work. The ALCS commented:
“As digital technologies extend the life-cycle of works so solutions have to be found to provide for appropriate frameworks for rewarding their usage. Not just for the the first payment for their creation, but for the work’s ‘secondary rights’ – the fees for uses that occur after the work’s initial payment. To both acknowledge and protect the creator’s long term investment it is imperative that the initial act of creativity is rewarded throughout the entire life-cycle of the resulting work.”1
In an environment where there has been an explosion in the availability of creative content, creators’ work is being undervalued as never before.
One instance of this undervaluation is a practice in the broadcast industry which is driving down the fees paid to music composers. Broadcasters have consistently defended low fees on the basis that composers’ principal income likely to come from the attendant broadcast royalty receipts. However, composers are increasingly being coerced into both parting with their rights, forgoing royalties and accepting ever-lower fees.
Broadcasters who have negotiated a blanket licence with the Performing Rights Society to have access to the entire repertoire of its 43,000 composer members frequently make it a condition of the commissioning contract that composers assign their publishing rights to the broadcaster’s publisher rather than the publisher of their choice.
These contracts are most often on terms that are less favourable than specialist music publishers’ deals. In any case, since the ‘publisher’ which is being imposed on the creator is a broadcaster, and not a music specialist, such contracts offer little likelihood of any secondary exploitation of the work that could generate the very income which broadcasters cite as a justification for low fees.
This practice distorts the marketplace, leading to ‘white lists’ of composers who are prepared to sign away a proportion of their royalty income back to the users.
4: You should get fair pay: what is needed
1 ALCS (2007) What are words worth? ALCS Ltd. London