Unfair Contracts

With the decline of print publishing, growth in electronic publishing, and changes in broadcast publishing; many publishers have become unsettled and responded by making changes in the way they do business; sometimes in ways that have had the potential to exploit writers.

The whole issue of unfair contracts, has become a great concern to writers groups around the world; and  the responses to the issue have become increasingly vocal.

 Here is one such response, through the Garden Media Guild in the UK:


Draft Report of the European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs, on the Implementation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22nd May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society.

This note is based on the Society of Authors and Author’s Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) response to the above draft, issued recently to Creators Rights Alliance members by Nicola Solomon of the Society of Authors, who has given us permission to quote. If any Guild member would like to see a full copy of the SoA/ALCS response, please get back to me. The deadline for response to the draft study was 3rd March 2015.

Equitable Remuneration

We (SoA/ALCS) are concerned at the worrying trend in removing primary licensing rights from authors and failing to provide adequate remuneration. This is particularly worrying in view of the ALCS 2013 study into author’s earnings: What Are Words Worth Now? Which showed that in 2005, 40% of authors earned their income solely from writing. By 2013 this had dropped to just 11.5%. Further, the survey found that there has been a drop in the typical income from writing of professional authors of 29% in real terms since 2005 to just £11,000.

Improvement to the Contractual Position of Authors
The study shows that EU creators are often subject to onerous contracts and do not receive a fair share of the reward for their creativity. The Study says:

European authors are in a difficult position as demonstrated throughout this study. This patchwork of national provisions also prejudices exploiters of copyright works due to the uncertainties they face in an industry that is becoming more and more global. The legal provisions in most Member States pay very little attention to the remuneration of the author; the weaker position of the author in the enforcement of the protective legal provisions is largely ignored once agreed upon, contracts govern a dynamic and evolving situation usually without any adaptive or corrective measures included; and the obligation of an explicit determination of the scope of transfer of rights proves inefficient in preventing an all-encompassing and time unlimited assignment.

The study recommends the following action with which (the SoA/ ALCS) strongly agree:

-Unfair terms Legislation including a list of defined clauses which are automatically deemed to be void and a general provision that ‘any contract provision that, contrary to the requirement of good faith, causes a significant imbalance in the parties ‘ rights and obligations arising under the contract, to the detriment of the author shall be regarded as unfair’.

-Fair Remuneration through detailed contracts , fair and unwaivable remuneration for all forms of exploitation.

-Future proofing copyright contracts by fair remuneration and reversion clauses.

-Stakeholder dialogue.

-Collective agreements and Collective actions (or class actions).


Extracted by:
Michael Howes
2nd March 2015