Battling for Creative Rights

THE MAJOR independent creators' organisations are joining forces to defend their members' rights in their work. This initiative - the Creators' Rights Alliance - follows the of the 30-nation Authors' Rights for All Summit 2000, sponsored by the NUJ and International Federation of Journalists and held at the British Library last June. The CRA will hold a major conference in London on 14 March to press the creators' case.

Alerted to the fact that nearly all contributors to broadcasting organisations were suffering from nearly identical economic and moral bullying from those who hired their services, eleven organisations are getting together to campaign against the growing abuses of creators' rights, particularly in broadcasting.

CRA member organisations cut across the old divisions between visual, textual and interpretative work. They include: AURA, The Association of Photographers; Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematography and Theatre Union (BECTU); The British Academy of Composers & Songwriters (BAC&S); British Actors Equity Association; the Chartered Institute of Journalists; The Directors Guild of Great Britain; the Musicians Union; the National Union of Journalists; The Society of Authors; The Society of Producers and Composers of Applied Music; and The Writers Guild of Great Britain.

The mission of the CRA is to ensure that copyright creators and content providers should be recognised under UK and European Law as the authors of their work and have the right to the material results of their artistic production. The CRA specifically condemns broadcasters and production companies which abuse creators by using their economic power to demand the waiving of moral rights and the coercion into signing unfair contracts.

David Ferguson (BAC&S and Chair of CRA) puts the problem succinctly: "My first experience of coercion was fairly dramatic. I was in the middle of scoring a big costume drama for broadcast on the BBC, but being produced by Carlton. My agent had politely refused to sign away the publishing rights without the guarantee of a CD tie-in when I received a phone call at 11:30pm from the producer, on his mobile, in the middle of a night shoot.

"I'm sorry David" he said, "but Jonathan Powell [Carlton's Production Chief Exec] says that if you won't sign the publishing contract he will give me a list of six composers who understand the meaning of a commercial decision."

As NUJ members - in particular freelances - know only too well, until recently each of the various disciplines of creators has fought this ever-increasing barrage of unfair contracts on their own ground. CRA has pledged to unify the creative community in an understanding of its common problems and galvanise member organisations to make greater efforts in protecting each other's moral, intellectual and economic property rights. Its first initiative will be a conference entitled "The Value of Creative Rights in 21st Century Broadcasting " which will take place at the National Film Theatre on 14 March, 1.30pm-4.30pm.

Janet Anderson MP, Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting will make the opening address. Broadcaster Brian Hayes will moderate a panel discussion including novelist A. S. Byatt of the Society of Authors, NUJ Copyright Committee Chair Joyce McMillan, playwright Guy Michelmore of BAC&S, Alan Plater of the Writers Guild and John Smith of the Musicians Union. Cartoonist Steve Bell and musician Billy Bragg are amongst many other representatives of CRA member organisations who have agreed to offer their services.

There will be a full opportunity for contributions from the floor and the whole conference is designed to provide an occasion for our members to collaborate and speak as one voice against those who attempt to take away the rights of creators. Creators' rights are human rights. Don't miss this conference.

Last modified: 19 February 2001 - © 2001 contributors
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