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Authors' organisations challenge publishers

4 January 2016

In an extraordinary and unprecedented display of concerted action, authors' organisations have joined together to present a simultaneous major challenge to publishers. In the US the Authors Guild has issued a challenge to publishers, the UK's Society of Authors has done the same, with the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS), the Irish Writers Union and more than two dozen writer-advocacy organisations from Europe, Africa, Australia, North America joining with them.

Concerns focus on contracts and terms of trade, with a not unexpected demand for a 50% split on ebook rights being one of the central demands. In general though the organisations are trying to get publishers to rethink their whole relationship with authors, who in many cases have come off worse as a result of the changes in recent years and have seen diminishing income.

This is a game-changing moment, as the united force of these author organisations and their geographical scope is considerable. It's far harder for corporate publishers to face down this challenge when authors issue it not singly but through their organisations. It will be really interesting to see what ensues and quite possible that the established relationships between publishers and authors may have changed for good.

The best summary of the situation is from the Bookseller's Futurebook but here is the UK Society of Authors' open letter and the US Authors' Guild letter.