Individual Creators

This project’s focus is on the day to day practice of creators and performers, the socio-economic and technological context of such practice, and the creative practitioners’ experiences and perceptions of copyright as it intersects with their practice. It is being undertaken as part of the research programme for CREATe (WP4A1).


Copyright, as a key issue that concerns both the creative industries and individual creative practitioners alike, has increasingly been subjected to public debate. The transition from analogue to digital media has been both promising and problematic. On the one hand, there are new opportunities for the production, dissemination, and consumption of creative output which creators may be unable to utilize, because of the barriers posed by copyright restrictions. On the other, successful exploitation of copyright faces challenges and has led to concerns about the ability of creators to earn a living and sustain their creative activities. In light of the rapid change in technologies and the marketplace, this is a particularly relevant time to focus our attention on the individual creative practitioners themselves, their practice, and the way in which they relate to copyright (and other IP rights).

Aims and research questions

The project is examining the role and impact of copyright in the everyday life of creative practitioners and their practice, meanings and beliefs in relation to copyright. The following research questions are being examined through a focus on creators’ perspectives:

  • What is the role of copyright in the day to day practice of creative practitioners, and how is it changing? Are their views changing in relation to it, and, if so, why?
  • What is the actual, as well as perceived, value of copyright from the creators’ point of view?
  • How are meanings and beliefs regarding copyright being shaped, and how do such meanings, beliefs, and experiences regarding copyright ultimately shape the various contours of creators’ practices?

These project questions are being addressed through a combination of primary data collected through semi-structured interviews with a range of creative practitioners and, observation data from festivals, events and other spaces. Interview data has primarily been collected through engaging with creators at literary events and arts festivals; through venues and hubs that showcase creative works; and through referrals from interviewees.

Project activities

Interviews have been conducted with writers, composers, visual artists, musicians, illustrators and performers. The aim of these interviews has been to obtain first-hand accounts of the socio-economic and technological context of their practice, how they sustain their practice, how they relate to copyright (and other IP rights, as and when they arise in their practice), and the challenges or opportunities they might face in the digital sphere. These interviews will help in  offering a picture of creators’ perspectives on a number of specific issues such as the role of copyright, open access, ownership, and attribution (in the context of how such concepts work, or perhaps fail to work, in today’s digital economy).

Literary events and arts festivals, and venues and hubs that showcase creative works, have been used as spaces to engage with, and interview, a broad range of creators and performers.  Interviews were conducted with a range of writers, artists and performers who were in attendance at, or participating in, the following events: In 2014, GoNorth, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Edinburgh Art Festival, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Ars Electronica Festival, Atlantic Center for the Arts Residency no.155 and International Symposium on Electronic Art; and in 2015, Transmediale, FutureEverything and FACT Liverpool’s Group Therapy exhibition. In addition to enabling collection of interview data, these spaces have been crucial in facilitating access to conversations amongst creators about their professional practice; the ‘business’ of, and challenges in, their sectors; and, how creative labour is being valued and paid for. Organisations that play an important role in supporting creative practitioners have also helped in undertaking project activities:  the Association of Illustrators, the Musicians’ Union (through John Smith and Keith Ames),  the Scottish Artists Union, and the Society of Authors in Scotland have provided support in reaching out to a range of professional creators and connecting us with other relevant organisations.

To date, over 120 individual creative practitioners, from a range of disciplines, have been interviewed, in conjunction with observations at festivals and events and, informal conversations with several agents, managers, curators and arts organisations. Collection and analysis of data from social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter is ongoing.

Read a mid-project update  here. Read about recent conference presentations here.