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Writers’ Guild of Great Britain calls for penalties on employers who use free labour, stricter AI controls

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A US writers’ strike is looming.

Writers’ Guild of Great Britian (WGGB) has issued a manifesto ahead of the UK’s general election on July 4, calling on the next government to implement its recommendations around fair pay and treatment of writers, as well as copyright and artificial intelligence (AI).

The guild is calling for greater restrictions on free work and low pay across the creative industries, including internships and schemes, with penalties for those who continue to under pay.

Another recommendation is an end to in-perpetuity buy-out clauses through legislation that requires fair remuneration for creators, including royalties and residuals.

Greater parity of earnings for those writing children’s and animated content; tax and benefit reform that’s fit for purpose for a freelance workforce; and action to deter late payment of freelance writers are also being called for.

The guild has also urged the next government to strengthen exiting copyright protections and set up a new body to monitor and regulate the AI expansion.

Further AI recommendations include licensing agreements to be required for work to be used by AI; AI developers to maintain clear and accessible logs of the information used to train their tools and allow writers to check if their work has been used; where AI has been used to generate content or make decisions, it is clearly labelled; and ensure a right to human review is in place wherever AI decision-making is used.

Transparency for public funds

Increased accountability and transparency measures for funding bodies, focusing on the distribution of public money to freelance creators, are among the WGGB’s suggestions for improving fair treatment of writers.

The manifesto is calling for venues and production companies that engage freelance writers and receive public funds to be faced with greater accountability.

It also asks for transparency around decision making from commissioners; mandatory equalities monitoring and reporting on freelancers engaged in the creative industries; and improved protections against discrimination, bullying and harassment.

A strengthened cultural test has been suggested, that recognises the importance of UK-based writers and storytellers when making work that qualifies for tax relief, as have measures to ensure that UK talent, resources and intellectual property are protected in an increasingly global industry.

The guild plans to talk to stakeholders and decision-makers about its manifesto in the run-up to and after the election.

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