Insights Writers’ Guild of Great Britain publishes manifesto

The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain (“WGGB”) has published a manifesto for the next government. Titled ‘putting writers at the heart of the story’, it argues that more support is needed to ensure that “the UK can continue to produce content that reflects the vibrancy and diversity of modern Britain”.

The manifesto addresses four central themes: fair pay, fair treatment, a sustainable sector, and copyright and AI. Taking each in turn, the WGGB states that for writing to remain a viable occupation that is open and available to those of all backgrounds, more action needs to be taken to restrict free work or low pay across the creative industries (such as internships or other schemes), and that penalties should be brought against those who continue to underpay. Equally, it calls for action to deter late payment of freelance writers and for greater parity of earnings for writers of children’s and animated content. There are also recommendations for legislative and tax changes both to end ‘in-perpetuity buy-out’ clauses so as to ensure “fair remuneration for creators (including royalties and residuals)”, and also to ensure the tax and benefit system is “fit for purpose for a freelance workforce whose earnings fluctuate and who are often paid in lump sums”.

Turning to the second theme of fair treatment, the manifesto argues that writers are “particularly vulnerable when working in an industry that relies heavily on personal connections and informal networks and where raising concerns can result in a loss of future work”. To address its concerns, the WGGB recommends a raft of measures including: the introduction of accountability measures for, and greater scrutiny of the working practices of, venues and production companies that engage freelance writers; improved and more transparent commissioning processes; mandatory equalities monitoring and reporting on freelancers engaged in the creative industries; improved protections for freelance workers against discrimination, bullying and harassment (and inquiries into racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination in the creative industries); the introduction of so-called ‘access riders’ across the industry; and the introduction of a Freelance Commissioner for creatives.

On sustainability, the WGGB calls for “increased and improved routes to direct funding for freelance writers”, increased financial support for the creative industries as a whole, and ringfenced funds for the Public Lending Right fund. It also recommends a strengthened ‘cultural test’ that “recognises the importance of UK-based writers” as well as measures to ensure that UK talent, resources and intellectual property are properly protected. More generally, it argues for increased funding for creative education and skills, and educational reform so that all young people have access to arts education.

Finally, the manifesto raises the “significant threat to writers’ work and earnings” that is posed by AI. To protect writers, it urges the next government and the Intellectual Property Office to, among other things: ensure that AI licensing agreements are always required for the use of work by AI developers and that the granting of such licences is at the discretion of the rights holder; require AI developers to maintain clear logs of training data; ensure that AI-generated content is properly labelled; and to impose a right to human review “wherever AI decision-making is used”.

To read the manifesto in full, click here.