The U.K. Society of Authors (SoA), which represents 10,500 writers, scriptwriters, illustrators and literary translators, has issued a report called “Brexit Briefing,” which outlines the vulnerabilities the U.K. creative community faces during Brexit negotiations. It asks that the government ensure “a new national policy framework that is favorable to writers” and specifically asks protections for writers to be included under the Withdraw Agreement that dictates the terms on which the U.K. leaves the European Union.
The SoA asserts that the U.K. publishing industry makes a significant contribution to society as a whole and contributed £5.7 billion ($7.15 billion) in turnover in 2017 to the U.K. economy.
The organization’s top concern is that “current copyright standards are not watered down or used as bargaining chips as part of future trade negotiations,” as stated in the report. It also notes that the E.U. is likely to approve the Digital Single Market directive before the U.K. exits the European Union and asks the government to introduce a similar provisions into U.K. law; these new provisions would include the expectation of increased transparency from publishers in reporting sales to authors and other favorable adjustments to author contracts.
A second major area of concern is that the government negotiate trade terms that allow Europe to remain an open export market. The report states that “The UK is the largest exporter of physical books in the world, with a 17% share of world exports. Exports play a major part in the success of the UK publishing industry as a whole, accounting for £3.4bn, or 60% of total revenues.” The European Union is the U.K.’s single biggest market for physical books, accounting for 36% of exports.
At the same time, the report asks that the U.K. adopt a ‘national exhaustion’ of rights framework of protections for its own book market post-Brexit in order to protect U.K. IP at home. This framework will mitigate the potential for grey market imports of books, for example, as well as provide further terms for enforcing copyright protections.
Other key terms the SoA would like to see included in the Withdraw Agreement include provisions to continue to allow U.K. writers access to European grant funding and exemptions for writers to allow them to continue to travel and work in Europe.
The final request is that the U.K. government move to reduce VAT on ebooks to zero following Brexit, something that was recently legislated as being legal under E.U. law.
Several prominent writers offered their support for the report, including Joanna Trollope, Linda Grant and Joanne Harris.
“We can’t just assume that our creative industries will have the same importance if we lose our easy access to European markets,” wrote Harris in the report. “We need to be able to trade easily with Europe and the rest of the world. We need customs arrangements in place that allow us to move goods swiftly and efficiently. Otherwise we risk becoming increasingly marginalized, with disastrous results for the publishing industry, and the creative arts as a whole.”