How artists, illustrators and photographers can get free cash with DACS payback royalties

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If you're an artist and your work has been published in UK books, magazines or shown on TV then you could be entitled to thousands of pounds in payback royalties. If you're wondering what exactly payback royalties are, you're in the right place.

Many creatives know how it feels to labour over creating beautiful artwork, only to earn a salary that isn't 'sustainable' to live off, as many a survey has revealed. For illustrators, photographers and artists a lot of work is produced for publications and publishing houses and sometimes television.

But there's good news. Every year artists, photographers, illustrators, cartoonists – even sculptors and fine artists – can apply to claim their share of what’s called Payback royalties (basically free money) through DACS; the UK’s not-for-profit flagship visual artists’ rights management organisation. Last year artists accumulated over £5 million between them - which is pretty nice going.

In a nutshell, payback royalties come from the re-use (or secondary use) of your copyrighted published artwork such as the photocopying and scanning of work in books and magazines, or the recording or re-broadcasting of work in TV programmes.

This all might seem like a good idea, but you may be wondering if applying is worth your time and effort. We think it is, and in this feature we hope to answer your burning questions.

If we haven’t covered everything you need, check out the DACS FAQ section.

Why you should bother

The thought of free money surely doesn’t need a lot of persuading, but just in case, let's have a look at some numbers.

The annual Payback scheme for artists has been organised by the DACS for 18 years (so don’t worry, this is not a scam), distributing a massive £55 million worth of royalties in total among artists who’ve applied so far. Just last year 63,000 artists who applied received their share of £5.4 million, with individual payments ranging from £25 (a minimum payment of which everyone is guaranteed) to £3,200. The median pay last year was £140. Sounds good to us (although it did use to be ten quid more back in 2017).

Working as a freelancer can mean huge fluctuations in income, and the extra cash can help to cover pre-production tests and experiments that don’t necessarily get budgeted into production costs.

If you’re an artist who has applied for Payback royalties before, get in touch with us and let us know how you found the process.

Am I eligible?

If your work is copyright protected and has appeared in a UK book, magazine or TV programme – and you can provide examples of where it has been featured, with proof – then you can apply.

You need to make sure your work is a type of artwork that can be protected by copyright and that you own the copyright in the artwork you are claiming royalties for.

For more information, check out the DACS FAQs section.

Will it cost me?

Because DACS is a not-for-profit organisation it retains a share of the royalties it collects on behalf of you. This is to cover the organisation’s costs. The current rate of its share is 16 percent. This will be deducted from the overall payment you will receive if your application is successful.

Bear in mind it’s an organisation willing to help you get rightfully paid and do the paperwork for you, so it’s a win-win situation overall.

For a little more information, DACS itself was created by artists for artists. It acts as a trusted broker for 100,000 artists globally and has done so for over 30 years. DACS campaigns for artists rights, and its main duty is to collect and distribute royalties to visual artists.

What are the dates I need to apply within?

This year artists can apply for Payback royalties anytime between January 14 and April 26, 2019.

How does it work?

Royalties come from various collective licensing schemes, mainly the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA), covering the secondary use of your images in UK publications and/or TV programmes. Every year the CLA sells photocopying licences to schools, universities, local councils, central government and business organisations to cover people on their premises photocopying copyright-protected books.

DACS collect royalties for visual artists if any of their publication titles are matched by the CLA in its list of UK photocopied publications.

Other collective licensing schemes include the Educational Recording Agency (ERA) for off-air recording of TV programmes by schools, colleges and universities, and the licensing of certain magazines for business and government use through the NLA.

How to apply

1) For DACS to complete the work on behalf of you, and apply for your share of royalties, you’ll need to submit a payback claim online form. To apply you’ll need to register an account and fill out an online form before April 26 2019, with recent examples of your published works in UK books, magazines or TV programmes. Provide your overall number of works published in UK books and magazines up until December 31, 2018. You can also claim for work featured on UK TV programmes broadcast in 2018 only. You are guaranteed a share of these royalties based on the overall number of images claimed.

2) You can also submit a more detailed publication history claim form to be eligible for royalties. This is optional, and has to be completed by February 18 2019. For this, your titles will then be matched by CLA against a list of photocopied publications. Simply put, if you get a match, you get royalties. Last year, one in three images were matched.

3) Then, all going to plan, you’ll be paid your share of royalties and any royalties based on matched publications by bank transfer once a year by DACS, usually in Autumn. Keep note though, the DACS will take 16 percent of your payment to cover its administration costs.

When do I get the money?

If you submit your claim by April 26, and all details are correct, you should receive your payback in Autumn 2019. You will be notified by the DACS when this happens. So what are you waiting for?

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