As the Covid-19 health crisis continues across the globe, the incomes of self-employed workers from all sectors have been hit hard. Many writers, artists and other creators are among them. Tours have been cancelled, along with lectures, talks, festivals, performances and school visits. Others face indefinite postponements of contracts as publishers, producers and other commissioning organisations close their offices. Many creators are having to choose whether they postpone work or see if they can find success through online channels.
The Australian Government announced a new $130 billion JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme designed to keep Australians in jobs during the pandemic. This $1,500 per fortnight subsidy is available for sole traders (which many authors and illustrators are) as well as employees.
The Australian Society of Authors (ASA) called for Public Lending Right (PLR) and Educational Lending Right (ELR) payments to be made as quickly as possible this year. They also called for a plan to help bookstores survive the crisis; a government-backed campaign to encourage consumers to Australian authors, as well as local bookshops and libraries. ASA outlined a need for additional funding for Australia Council, including an increase in individual writers grants in aid of future economic recovery.
In addition, the ASA wrote to Minister Fletcher requesting that expansion of PLR and ELR to digital formats be made a priority now, and it will continue to ramp up its campaign efforts over the coming months The organisation believes that the increased investment in digital resources and new borrowing patterns may have a long term effect on the way patrons interact with libraries.
More recently, the ASA completed its submission to the Select Committee inquiry on Covid-19 into the Australian Government’s response to the pandemic, inviting submissions from industry and the community, to ensure that author and illustrator voices are heard by government. The Select Committee is due to present its final report on or before 30 June 2022.
In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the government has reached an agreement with the opposition party on an $82 billion financial aid package.
The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) will give $2,000 a month for four months to people who are off work and without an income because of Covid-19. Unique to this package is that in addition to including wage earners, its specific references to full-time and part-time contractors, and self-employed Canadians provides support for many who normally wouldn’t qualify for employment insurance.
The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) and Writers’ Trust of Canada announced the creation of the Canadian Writers’ Emergency Relief Fund to provide support to professional authors financially affected by the pandemic. The fund will begin with an initial amount of $150,000, distributed in grants of $1,500 to writers that have seen contracted or projected income evaporate due to the current public health crisis. Financial support for the program is supplied by three program partners: the Writers’ Trust, TWUC, and Royal Bank of Canada.
Last month, president Emmanuel Macron announced financial help for France’s arts, culture and entertainment sector. Société des Gens de Lettres (SGDL), in collaboration with the National Book Centre and five collective management organisations – SOFIA, SCAM, Centre Français d’Exploitation du droit de Copie (CFC), Société des Auteurs dans les Arts Graphiques et Plastiques (ADAGP) and Société des Auteurs des Arts Visuels et de l’Image Fixe (SAIF) – has set up and delivered aid for authors whose income has been impacted by the crisis. Since 20 April, the SGDL has provided €773,000 worth of emergency aid to more than 750 authors. Moreover, in conjunction with the member organisations of the Permanent Writers’ Council (CPE) and alongside the National Publishing Union (SNE) and the French Library Union (SLF), there are calls to set up an ambitious recovery plan in favour of authors and the book chain. The call was launched on 23 May and has collected nearly 16,000 signatures.
The Government announced a support plan for the book sector which includes several measures intended for authors; some of which join the proposals made by the SGDL and the CPE such as the extension of the Solidarity Fund until the end of 2020; a flat-rate exemption of four months of social security contributions for authors (from March to June 2020); the launch of a public commission programme open to authors; €3 million available from the budget of the Centre National du Livre (CNL) emergency plan, which can be used to reinforce mechanisms put in place for the benefit of authors in particular; and the extension of emergency aid to CNL-SGDL authors of up to €1,500 per month to June.
The German Government has announced a €1 billion (approximately $1.13 billion) financial aid programme to get the cultural industries up and running again following the closures of venues and cancellations of cultural events due to Covid-19.
In Italy, the Italian Writers Federation (FUIS) released an anthology series called Coronavirus Diary. The fifth series of the anthology also features a poem by the Honorary President of the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS), Maureen Duffy called In time of plague.
FUIS have published the support measures aimed at helping associate writers, authors and artists who find themselves in financial difficulties. In addition, it has released an international magazine called FORMAFLUENS, which welcomes texts from writers from all over the world and publishes them in their original language.
A €245 million (£220 million) fund was established by the Italian Government to sustain companies and workers in the world of performing arts during the lockdown.
Dario Franceschini, Minister of Culture Heritage and Activities, has announced a new decree supporting authors and artists in difficulty due to the health emergency. This decree will include measures for the publishing and museum sectors. The first measures involve allocating €130 million to the cinema and entertainment industry.
The Italian Regions have launched various independent local initiatives for projects related to cultural events.
In New Zealand, Creative New Zealand has worked to respond to applications for its Covid-19 Emergency Response Package, investing an additional $13 million in its now closed first phase of arts funding. Arts Council leadership on 5 June approved the organisation drawing on further reserves to increase its total Phase 1 investment from $16 million to $29 million.
Earlier in May, the Prime Minister and Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern announced that the Government would inject an additional $25 million into Creative New Zealand’s funding to support artists, creative practitioners and arts organisations across the next two years.
The Dutch government announced it will introduce a temporary, more flexible scheme to support independent businesses, including self-employed people, so they can receive additional income support for living costs for a period of three months.
On 28 May 28, the Dutch government announced that the economic relief package in connection with the Covid-19 crisis will be extended by one month to 1 October 2020.
In the UK, the Government announced that self-employed individuals will receive direct cash grants of up to £2,500 per month for at least 3 months though a UK-wide scheme to help them during the pandemic. However, organisations including ALCS, Society of Authors and the Writers Guild of Great Britain wrote to the chancellor, asking for gaps in the plan to be solved.
The Society of Authors, ALCS, Royal Literary Fund (RLF), the T S Eliot Foundation and the Arts Council England, in partnership with English PEN, and Amazon UK, have contributed to the Authors’ Emergency Fund to support authors through the crisis.
In addition, ALCS has responded to calls for evidence for inquiries by the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Treasury Committees into the impact of the current Covid-19 pandemic. ALCS called on its members to contact their MPs to press for improvements and a vision to support the creative sector. ALCS also wrote to the Chancellor to express its support for authors and freelancers during the Covid-19 outbreak and outline how government schemes can support them more fairly.
The Society of Authors has submitted detailed written evidence to the House of Commons Select Committees for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). SoA’s second real-time survey also confirmed the extent of the impact of Covid-19 on authors’ income and wellbeing as implications for daily life and the publishing industry continue to emerge.
Multiple creator organisations in the UK have made joint demands for a “Creators Council” for the Government to engage with creators on policy-making necessary to respond to the pandemic.
The Arts Council England made £160 million of emergency funding available for organisations and individuals who will need it during this crisis. Moreover, it has changed the funding requirements for individuals and organisations currently in receipt of its funding.
The Authors Guild is offering membership conference calls on how the Guild can help market members’ books with spring publication dates. It is also holding discussions with the industry, and providing guidance and hosting online readings for its members.
The National Writers Union has profiled the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which supports eligible independent contractors and self-employed individuals with up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits under some circumstances, through 31 December 2020. The DC/VA/MD NWU Chapter has been meeting via Zoom every Sunday in response to the urgent, fast-moving events of the pandemic.
The Textbook & Academic Authors Association (TAA) is providing professional advice to academic writers who have specific concerns or needs due to the recent changes in academic schedules.
In response to the Internet Archive’s announcement to make in-copyright books freely available online without restriction on its Open Library under the guise of a “National Emergency Library”, the Authors Guild and National Writers Union released statements against this development respectively.
The Authors Guild also released a statement urging the Internet Archive to cease its Open Library operations entirely or to conduct them in a legal manner by obtaining authorisation from publishers and authors.
The Internet Archive ended its programme of offering free, unrestricted copies of e-books because of a lawsuit from publishers.
If you have any updates on efforts undertaken by your organisation or national government in supporting creators during the pandemic, or you would be interested in participating in online discussions about Covid-19, please contact Athanasios.Venitsanopoulos@internationalauthors.org