Paying fair? UK artists argue for right to be paid by public institutions

There are increasing calls for discussions about how artists can be paid fairly for their work. 2015 will be the first year that Arts Council England (ACE) will ask national portfolio organisations to demonstrate their commitment to those who work in the creative industries.

Last week, a motion calling for government support of individual artists – including visual artists, writers and composers – reached the House of Lords.

The debate in the House of Lords was led by Nick Trench, Earl of Clancarty, who argued for the value of “the individual creative vision which, to a large extent, has determined the artistic and cultural landscape of this country.” He drew attention to the research done by Paying Artists, a campaign group that aims to secure payment for artists who exhibit in publicly-funded galleries. They found that 71% of UK artists have not been paid to display their work in publicly funded galleries over the past three years and 63% of artists have turned down exhibitions as a result.

Could stricter copyright laws provide an answer? During the debate the point was raised by Lord Maclennan of Rogart that Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit could be used as a means of enforcement. “Copyright is the mechanism through which writers, composers and music creators are paid for their work. Royalties provide essential income for creators so that they can grow and invest in themselves and their businesses. Therefore, it is essential that the copyright framework remains strong so that composers, creativity and innovation can continue to be supported.”

The issue, however, is enormously complex. In a comment to The Art Newspaper, Godfrey Worsdale, the director of the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead said: “We need to understand that there is a need to make payments, but I don’t think there is a tight model that everyone would subscribe to because we are so varied in our form, in our funding models and in our scale.”

Further reading:

Arts Council England

Transcript of the debate

Paying Artists

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