Writers unions gather in Brussels

By Nick Yapp

Around 40 writers’ unions and organisations from 30 European Union countries gathered together for the European Writers’ Council’s annual general meeting and conference in Brussels on 2-3 November 2104.

Presentations at the conference, titled the Value of Writers’ Works, covered (among other subjects) copyright, remuneration, the problems presented by Amazon, the market for books, and Public Lending Right.

There was also much praise for the WGGB’s Free is NOT an Option campaign. Bill Armstrong, Chair of the WGGB Television Committee, gave a powerful talk on the subject, condemning the amount of development work screenwriters and others are expected to do without payment.

The titles of two seminars held in the European Parliament highlighted the fact that writers are having to fight the old, old battles: ‘Towards Fair Contractual Agreements’, and ‘Challenges and Solutions for Remuneration and Compensation’. The good news is that European writers are not alone in fighting these battles. Speakers included lawyers, general secretaries from fellow unions, heads of research, a policy officer of the European Commission, and even one of the Vice Presidents of the European Parliament.

We have allies, some of them in high places. They need to be informed, and in many cases reminded, that the recognition of writers, the remuneration they receive, and the conditions they work under are all worsening. Recent research in the UK carried out by WGGB in conjunction with the Society of Authors and Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society has revealed that writers’ earnings have dropped by 29% in real terms over the last eight years.

What was heartening about two long days in Brussels was to experience a feeling that there is hope of progress to be made. This is not the end… and you can finish the Churchillian quote for yourselves, but maybe, just maybe, things are going to get better.

Nick Yapp is Vice President of the European Writers’ Council and has been a WGGB member for over 30 years.