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Challenge benefit rules change - and...

Pay the creator!

PAY THE Creator! That's the message of the new campaign by the Creators' Rights Alliance (CRA), whose Public Affairs and Communications person Seamus McGibbon updated London Freelance Branch at its April meeting. Seamus also called on "individual creatives" affected by a recent tightening of rules compelling freelances claiming Universal Credit to seek "alternative work" to get in touch about a possible challenge to the regulation.

Seamus McGibbon; Photo: Matt Salusbury

Seamus McGibbon

Seamus described the Creators' Rights Alliance as an umbrella organisation... an alliance of twenty-odd membership organisations, including the NUJ, Directors UK, actors' union Equity, the Musicians Union. It represents bodies whose members are "creators, or 'authors' as they are called legally". For the purposes of the law, photographers and illustrators are also "authors". The collecting societies ALCS and DACS are associate members.

The CRA grew out of the Creators' Copyright Coalition, which was itself set up at a meeting called by a previous NUJ General Secretary. LFB's own Mike Holderness, who sits as a director on the CRA Board, introduced Seamus – who was until recently CEO of the Association of Photographers.

The Alliance, according to Seamus, is "doing more of the same that the NUJ does". It focuses on authors' rights and other issues. With the members organisations it serves being so differently sized and differently resourced, the CRA aims to "support the organisations that support you" and to help its constituent membership organisations "put all their support behind each individual creator", including the many creators who don't have the support of a membership organisation.

The creative sector is, says Seamus, so very complex that for lots of creatives' membership organisations to be aware of all the complex issues around payments and rights is "virtually impossible". So the CRA brings them all together to talk about "issues that affect us collectively". It can "give a unified voice to the sector" and to individual creators.

Another role for the CRA is to bring together larger numbers in campaigning for creators who find it hard to get themselves heard. It works with other groups and organisations lobbying the government. It has a relationship with government because "collectively we're representing over quarter of a million creators." Seamus noted the forum where government meets "the creative industries" – the Creative Industries Council – had many creative entrepreneurs, commissioners, BBC management people and representatives of "the advertising world" but "we were very aware it doesn't currently include any actual creators."

Seamus explained how the CRA had recently brought together "all our membership organisations' campaigns around the issue of payment – getting paid on time, decent contracts, getting money related to the authorship we do, the use of our work". It calls for payment to also be "on time" and "reflecting their skills and contribution" of the creators.

The #PayTheCreator campaign was launched on 17 March. NUJ members are urged to use the #PayTheCreator hashtag when, for example, promoting the Rate for the Job or passing on information to the NUJ about rates or late payment problems. "Try to get this well-known" Mike requested.

From his work with the Association of Photographers, Seamus is "aware that IP [intellectual property] is everything". We need, he said, to educate the public when someone commissions work from a photographer and uses it, "it isn't 'theirs'." The client has just bought a use of the creator's work, they don't own it.

There's now a Pay The Creator homepage with more resources, including a logo you can use and a Pay The Creator moving image gif file that you can attach to your social media and so on.

Another function of the CRA, connected to its lobbying work, is to act as something like "flypaper": to be a conduit through which creators can "come to us if they feel they’re "being sidelined".

For example, the UK government has changed the rules on Universal Credit (UC). It used to be three months before you as a UC claimant had to look for "alternative work" - work outside the field of their chosen profession. Now it's become just four weeks. The CRA believes that the Department of Work and Pensions " haven't gone through the process correctly" in bringing in this new four-week rule, and that "there isn't really a need for the change... a lot of creatives are affected – particularly actors."

So if anyone out there has experienced being compelled to take "alternative work" as a UC claimant, or knows of anyone in a similar position, Seamus urges them to "get in touch with the Branch" or go directly to contact@creatorsrightsalliance.org).

From the audience, Paul Farrell, who works with ALCS, was aware how complicated some of the issues facing freelances are. The problem of news agencies compelling journalists to work for them through umbrella companies of "service companies" - which take a considerable cut of their earnings – had come up earlier in the meeting. Paul said that the IPSE – The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-employed - has done a lot of work on how umbrella companies adversely affect individual freelances.

Mike invited requests for help, assistance and explanation around authors' rights issues, as does the Freelance via editor@londonfreelance.org.

See also the discussion about ways to get the internet giants to pay for the news they use and getting a fair share for journalists.