Philip Pullman has backed a campaign for better author contracts from the Society of Authors.
Pullman urged publishers to comply with the SOA’s recommendations, which include proper accreditation and remuneration, saying “it's not always easy [for authors] to see our way through the thickets of legal language that grow so vigorously around the commercial exploitation of our work, nor to know how our own position with regard to our rights compares with others”.
He added: “The essential point is that the balance of fairness has tilted the wrong way, and it's often not only the work that's being exploited - its creators are too. It's time for that to stop.”
Nicola Solomon, chief executive of the SOA, gave a speech to the All Party Writers Group Summer Reception earlier this week calling for a review of laws applicable to creator contracts.
In her speech, which she called the "Magnificent Seven for CREATOR contracts", she asked for:
C – clearer Contracts, including written contracts which set out the exact scope of the rights granted.
R – fair Remuneration. Equitable and unwaivable remuneration for all forms of exploitation, to include bestseller clauses so that if a work does far better than expected the creator shares in its success, even if copyright was assigned.
E – an obligation of Exploitation for each mode of exploitation, also known as the 'use it or lose it' clause
A – fair, understandable and proper Accounting clauses.
T – Term. Reasonable and limited contract terms and regular reviews to take into account new forms of exploitation.
O – Ownership. Authors, including illustrators and translators, should be appropriately credited for all uses of their work and moral rights should be unwaivable.
R – All other clauses be subject to a general test of Reasonableness
Like Pullman, she said authors need protection because they are not in a strong negotiating position.
“Publishers are often large multinationals while authors typically work alone,” she said. “Especially at the start of their careers they may have little or no advice and are thrilled to be offered publishing contracts. Individual creators are therefore at an inherent disadvantage when negotiating the terms of their contracts.”
She added: “These laws are not radical. They already exist throughout many European countries. These changes are easy and timely and we urge that they should be effected."
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