Authors average anually £11k pa - ALCS

THE AVERAGE writer earns just £11,000 a year, according to research carried out by the Authors' Licensing & Collecting Society (ALCS) and published in July. The report concludes that a "rapid decline in both author incomes and in the numbers of full-time writers could have serious implications for the economic success of the creative industries in the UK." (See here)

The report was launched at an ALCS debate in July at the House of Commons. This emphasised the sheer difficulty of making creative work pay the creators.

Present were Adam Singer, ALCS Chair (who outlined the report's findings); Baroness Floella Benjamin; the poet Wendy Cope; novelist Joanne Harris (Chocolat); Richard Hooper, chair of the Copyright Hub, who carried out a review into copyright licensing; and Richard Mollet Chief Executive of the (book) Publishers' Association - a reminder that the threat posed by the likes of Google and Amazon (even more than the pirates) to income from creativity was bothering the publishers as much as the authors.

An intervention by Writers' Guild General Secretary Bernie Corbett did bring screenwriters and playwrights into the picture. Some of what was said could be extrapolated into journalism. Everyone agreed creators need to be paid and that a public expectation that everything on the internet ought to be free militated against this.

What to do about this? Ideas floated included a rather hopeful call for better education about what copying is legal and what not. Would that make a noticeable difference? Everyone agreed that making online clearance of rights easier was vital. Richard Hooper had an idea for an electronic system of making micro-payments, which seemed to rest on the fact that people would pay if they could do so easily by pressing a button on a screen. A sort of electronic honesty box? I found this unconvincing as well as dubious in other ways - surely there could be a conflict with authors' moral rights? Would authors want to lose control of who used their material?

Also proposed was taxing Amazon and Google ("top-slicing") and paying the money to writers. How to do this? Not easy...

In the end, I don't think anyone there thought much that was original was said - though launching the results of ALCS's findings managed to clarify that not all authors command JK Rowling-like incomes. Most of us already knew this, but then most of us are in the "creative industries", and tend to forget that the rest of the world imagines we are rich.

Last modified: 01 Oct 2014 - © 2014 contributors
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