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40 years of DACS: We talk to Amberley Jamieson to learn more about DACS’ mission to protect and champion artists

Advocating for artists rights for 40 years, DACS is a not-for-profit organisation founded by artists and lawyers. Through three main initiatives – licensing, Artists’ Resale Rights and their innovative Payback scheme – each year they help thousands of creators to maximise their royalties.

As they celebrate their milestone anniversary, we talk to Amberley Jamieson from DACS’ licensing team to learn more about their journey and achievements so far, plus the work they are doing today to protect artists from new threats, including the unregulated use of Artificial Intelligence.

DACS campaign for the introduction of the Artist’s Resale Right, outside the Royal Courts of Justice, in 2005.

Q: As you celebrate DACS’s 40th anniversary, could you tell us about the organisation’s history – where did it all begin?

A: It all began in 1984, when a visionary group of artists and lawyers founded DACS to champion and support artists by managing their copyright and collecting royalties on their behalf. Among our founding members were Sir Eduardo Paolozzi and Susan Hiller.

With a bit of backing from the law firm Stephens Innocent, DACS started out in a modest office in Whitechapel. We issued our very first licence in 1985 for the work of Eric Ravilious. Now, fast forward to 2024, and we’ve distributed over £200 million in royalties to artists and their estates. It’s been an incredible journey from those humble beginnings to becoming the organisation we are today. 

DACS’ first licensing logbook from 1984

‘we’re deeply involved in campaigning for fair pay and strong intellectual property laws to safeguard artists’ earnings, especially in the face of challenges like Artificial Intelligence.’

Amberley Jamieson, DACS

Q: Your mission is championing, protecting, and managing the rights of artists and maximising their royalties – could you share with us the various ways you do this?

A: From day one, we’ve been tireless in advocating for artists’ rights. Each year, thousands of creators trust us to protect their interests and help them earn from their work. Our cornerstone is licensing – it’s why DACS was established.

DIOR Men’s Summer 2023 Collection, featuring the work of Duncan Grant
DIOR Men’s Summer 2023 Collection, featuring the work of Duncan Grant

Annually we arrange on average 1,800 licences for our members and collaborate with over 700 customers. We also handle the Artist’s Resale Right, ensuring artists and their heirs get paid whenever their work is resold for £1,000 or more.

Since 2006, we’ve secured over £125 million in ARR royalties. Additionally, our DACS Payback scheme distributes royalties owed for the use of artists’ work in publications and on TV, paying out £5.3 million last year to artists, photographers, and illustrators. Beyond this, we’re deeply involved in campaigning for fair pay and strong intellectual property laws to safeguard artists’ earnings, especially in the face of challenges like Artificial Intelligence. 

‘When we work with King & McGaw and arrange licences for our members, they know their art is treated with the utmost integrity and respect.’

Amberley Jamieson, DACS

Q: King & McGaw have worked in collaboration with DACS for many years, publishing special edition prints with exceptional British artists – including Sir Frank Bowling, Patrick Caulfield and Fiona Rae. Has this collaboration been important to DACS in your mission to champion artists?

A: Absolutely. Our collaboration with King & McGaw has been instrumental in reinforcing the value of art and supporting the brilliant artists behind these works.

When we work with King & McGaw and arrange licences for our members, they know their art is treated with the utmost integrity and respect. This partnership embodies our shared belief in the transformative power of art and its crucial role in enriching society and culture. King & McGaw’s dedication to excellence perfectly aligns with our mission, to champion and protect the rights of artists. 

Q: What does it mean to be celebrating 40 years of DACS?

A: Celebrating 40 years of DACS is a momentous occasion. This milestone is a testament to the impact of protecting and advocating for artists’ rights over the past four decades. It’s a celebration of the immense value artists bring to society and a reminder of our ongoing commitment to support and champion them. 

Q: What have been some of the main highlights of the organisation’s journey?

A: One of our proudest achievements was securing the Artist’s Resale Right in UK law back in 2006. More recently, our Smart Fund proposal received endorsement from a cross-party group, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

As part of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games, DACS worked with Royal Mail to license Julian Opie’s Diver (2011) for a series of stamps to celebrate the London games.

The aim of the Smart Fund is to ensure creators and performers are fairly paid for their work when accessed, distributed, and stored on consumers digital devices (also known as private copying).

The Committee has recommended the UK government work with the creative industries to develop a statutory private copying scheme within the next year. This recommendation is a beacon of hope for creators grappling with unpredictable earnings in the digital age, underscoring our commitment to fair compensation. 

We partnered with publisher Phaidon on the use of 70 artworks in a landmark publication charting five centuries of female creativity; this is the most extensive fully illustrated book of women artists to date.

Q: What are some of the new challenges that artists face today?

A: Artists today face a rapidly changing landscape in how they create, distribute, and sell their work, making it more precarious to sustain a career. The rise of Artificial Intelligence presents both opportunities and significant challenges.

Our recent report, ‘Artificial Intelligence and Artists’ Work’, highlighted the concerns of UK artists about AI’s impact on their careers, future opportunities, and copyright. The unregulated use of AI is causing considerable unease, potentially undermining artists’ livelihoods and creating a skills gap.

There’s strong support among UK artists for government intervention to protect their rights and ensure the creative sector’s sustainability. This underscores the urgent need for regulations to safeguard artists’ contributions to the UK’s £126 billion cultural and creative industries, reinforcing our global leadership.

As part of UK’s AI Summit in November 2023, DACS convened a panel at the AI Fringe at the British Library, exploring the potential impacts of AI models on creators and their IP rights.

Q: What does DACS hope to achieve over the next 40 years?

A: We aspire to a future where artists’ contributions are celebrated, their work is protected, and they are fairly compensated. Over the next 40 years, we see a future brimming with new opportunities for artists, driven by emerging art forms, innovative practices, and advanced communication methods.

DACS will be there throughout to champion artists' rights and ensure they thrive in an ever-evolving cultural and technological landscape. Here's to another 40 years of advocating for a society that recognises, respects, and values all artists. 

DACS worked closely with the Centre Pompidou, on behalf of the Francis Bacon Estate, to help create the print materials that accompany this landmark exhibition, Bacon: Books and Painting.

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