Creating a Living: IAF reports on global challenges to authors’ incomes

The International Authors Forum (IAF) has launched a ground-breaking report entitled Creating a Living: Challenges to Authors’ Incomes which collects research into working conditions for authors internationally for the first time.

Incorporating figures from ALCS’ 2018 survey into authors’ incomes in the UK as well as the findings of numerous studies and surveys from developed countries across the world, Creating a Living shows that the earnings of authors are in significant decline globally, despite international growth in the creative industries that make use of their works. Such findings are complemented in the report by interviews with authors and authors’ representatives in Ghana, the Philippines and the Solomon Islands which provide valuable context about the status of authors in developing countries where the creative industries are not yet as significant economically.

The report highlights a number of reasons for the global decline in authors’ incomes including the impact of digitization and online publishing, and a growing demand for authors to work without payment. In some instances, the pressure on incomes has reached a point where it could prevent authors from continuing to write in future.

Creating a Living also shows that in some countries, globalisation has affected the ability of authors to create works in their own languages, particularly in countries which take in culture from elsewhere in the world but which create few opportunities for indigenous authors to establish and share their work in return. Social background, gender and ethnicity also play a role in the extent to which authors are able to earn a sustainable living from their work.

Quoting Article 27 of the University Declaration of Human Rights (“everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he [or she] is the author”), the IAF report goes on to detail the working conditions which authors across the world need in order to thrive. These include the creation and maintenance of robust copyright frameworks; fair contracts; and the establishment of remuneration rights internationally to ensure that authors’ earnings adequately reflect the way the ways in which their works are used and enjoyed. Examples include Public Lending Right (PLR), Artist’s Resale Right (ARR), also known as droit de suite, and an Unwaiveable Remuneration Right for online uses of work. The report also highlights the ways in which writers’ organisations and trade unions also play an important role in supporting authors to create their works.

Establishing an accurate picture of authors’ earnings globally continues to pose a challenge, finds the Creating a Living report. In many countries there are still no in-depth studies of authors’ earnings and IAF argues that more must be done if the international situation of the author is to be better understood. However, the report concludes that “it can be stated with certainty that in every country where such research has been conducted, evidence shows a marked decline in earnings, despite international growth in the creative industries”.

Luke Alcott, IAF Secretariat, said of the report: “Authors contribute to cultural diversity around the world, so it is important to understand what they need so they can keep creating. This is a complex challenge that needs to be tackled in every country around the world, we hope this report will lead to further work to understand and tackle challenges for authors’ earnings”.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, authors globally are contending with ever more significant challenges. In light of this, IAF hopes that Creative a Living will underline the urgent need for action to ensure authors in every country can sustainably create and contribute to diverse cultures around the world. For as an international study conducted in 2015 found, “the creative industries drive the digital economy, contribute to youth employment and have huge potential to do so in every world region”.

Read the full report here.