'Defend and nurture' UK publishing, Wise urges policymakers

'Defend and nurture' UK publishing, Wise urges policymakers

Curtis Brown agent Gordon Wise, former president of the Association of Authors' Agents, has urged parliamentarians to defend the achievements of UK publishers. 

Wise stood down as AAA president last month, making way for David Higham agent Lizzy Kremer. Reflecting on his time at the helm of the group, Wise was buoyant about the contributions of the publishing industry to the UK economy after its revenues totalled £4.8bn in 2016, according to the Publishers Association, with "significant growth" of exports in recent years.

AAA members reported a total value of licences of £381m in 2016, approximately 50% of which was derived from overseas sales (21% in the US, 27% in translation), he said. Over half of AAA members (55%) said their sales were up in the US, and 39% up in translation in 2015-16. 

Wise said the AAA was now urging all parliamentarians to "defend and nurture" such "extraordinary achievements", in particular by bearing five "key" things in mind.

Firstly, he advocated "maintenance of, and respect for, the UK's "robust" IP regime. "It's a global gold standard, and UK government should promote this to those with whom we trade. Without this guarantee, an author, the initiator of IP, cannot afford to invest in the creative act," he cautioned.

Secondly, he stressed the need for the UK to retain "a positive influence over European legislation", such as the Digital Single Market, since the outcome of such debates will still impact the UK after Brexit.

Thirdly, he relayed concerns over the potential higher costs of doing business after the UK exits the EU, such as higher import costs and higher costs for selling to the EU, as well as the practical need to sync the requirements of different tax regimes to facilitate rights trading. 

In his fourth point, he warned of challenges in the form of piracy and parallel imports, the latter where goods are imported into a market and sold there without the consent the rights holder. He said exclusivity must be preserved in markets in accordance with the license granted. "All are factors that leave British booksellers and publishers vulnerable to incursions," he said.

Finally, he was adamant the creative industries need to be able to recruit "workers with languages and country-specific knowledge in relation to our export markets, ensuring our skilled workforce is as diverse as the readerships we wish to reach". 

Without these considerations, the successes of creators like Misha Glenny and Deborah Moggach "simply would not exist", he warned.

The AAA has grown to 100 member agencies and is now regularly consulted by the Intellectual Property Office. Notably, it provided evidence to shape the UK's response to Europe's Digital Single Market proposals and it has engaged in discussions with Downing Street concerning Brexit.

Read Gordon Wise's comment piece here.