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UK Society of Authors questions Spotify deal

The UK Society of Authors (SoA) has expressed ‘deep concern’ about Spotify’s deal with major book publishers announced last week, reports Publishing Perspectives.

In a statement to Publishing Perspectives, the SoA—which learned about the deal from press reports—said: ‘As far as we are aware, no authors or agents have been approached for permission for such licenses, and authors have not been consulted on license or payment terms.’

‘Publishing contracts differ but in our view most licenses given to publishers for licensing of audio do not include streaming,’ the SoA said. ‘In fact, it is likely that streaming was not a use that had been invented when many such contracts were entered into.

‘We know the devastating effect that music streaming has had on artists’ incomes, and the impact of streaming and subscription video on demand platforms on screenwriter incomes and their working conditions. We have long been concerned about streaming models for books.

‘The streaming of audiobooks competes directly with sales and is even more damaging than music streaming because books are typically only read once, while music is often streamed many times.’

Citing reports that Spotify is offering variations of the pooled income arrangement typical for digital content subscription deals, the SoA said authors and agents ‘have simply not been contacted about such offers, let alone reassured’. ‘The fact that all major publishers have entered such arrangements at the same time seems to raise questions that perhaps should be reported to the competition authorities,’ said the SoA.

A spokesperson for Penguin Random House (PRH) told the Bookseller its participation in the program ‘is not a departure from our position that we will not participate in unlimited access subscription models’. ‘The Spotify program limits the monthly hours a subscriber can listen to an audiobook which in our view preserves the value of the intellectual property,’ the spokesperson said.

Similarly, a Pan Macmillan spokesperson told the Bookseller it is ‘only making titles available to Spotify where we are cleared for distribution [of the titles] as streamed audiobooks’.

Locally, the Australian Society of Authors said it shared the SoA’s concerns, saying ‘we need to understand the remuneration structures to ensure authors are being paid fairly for their work under subscription models’.


Category: International news