Research from Adobe shows major disparities between BIPOC creatives and other ethnic groups. The study as highlighted by Fast Company showed that “white men and women non-professional creatives earned an average of $62 whilst creatives of color earned $29 per hour, resulting in a 21% disparity.” This racial gap in income has stirred BAUCEs like Kim Tignor to do something.
Tignor is an intellectual property expert who is committed to ensuring creatives of color receive their worth. She currently serves as Executive Director of Take Creative Control and its sister organization, The Institute of Intellectual Property and Social Justice. She says: “We don’t always connect the dots between social justice and intellectual property. Like most social justice issues in America, laws to protect and enforce the rights of creators are ingrained in our system, silently tipping the scales against equality and opportunity.
“Think of an up-and-coming graphic artist who discovers a big brand stole their work. Or an entrepreneur who has great ideas but no army of attorneys to defend their rights. Or a breakout music artist trying to navigate the inner workings of fair use legal jargon. Without millions of dollars in lawyers or lobbyists, legally protecting yourself seems like an immovable object that too often ends up protecting those at the top – most times at the expense of creators of color.”
You may wonder why diversity is important within the creative industry. Research shows that diverse teams help with innovation and creativity, thus driving market growth. A report by the Harvard Business Review showed that this innovation translated to better financial growth for companies. In addition, diverse teams drive better decision-making as it allows alternative viewpoints from different backgrounds to be taken into consideration and thus, prevents companies from alienating a certain demographic of their customers.
And when black creatives do get into the industry, they often have to deal with unequal pay. A study from communications company, MSL looked into the “influencer pay gap”. They found the gap between black and white creators to be 35%, and 59% of black influencers reported that posting about race negatively affected them financially. Tignor asserts: “The theft of intellectual property from creators of color has prevented marginalized communities of color from building wealth and has silenced them from telling their stories. This pillaging of their ideas, inventions, and creative expressions is one of the untold economic and social injustices of this generation.”
Tignor believes that one way to address this disparity is by leveraging opportunities presented by new media models that diminish or remove the role of traditional gatekeepers found within traditional media outlets.”
She adds: “Today, many freelancers can access internet platforms that enable them to share their perspectives, lived experiences, and opinions. To be clear, the removal of one set of gatekeepers has made way for a new set – for example, inequities in internet access, access to technology and resources.
“Despite this, our research shows that the online platforms promote greater diversity and inclusiveness across creative fields. Before the internet, aspiring writers, filmmakers, photographers, musicians, painters, artisans, audio commentators, and other creative people faced daunting obstacles. To gain recognition and earn a living from their creative work, they usually had to be “discovered” by a professional agent or manager with contacts to publishing houses, newspaper and magazine editors, film companies, streaming services, record companies, radio stations, art galleries, and retail distributors. The internet’s vast network of platform technologies has created new, groundbreaking ways for creative people to present their work and promote their talent.”
For ambitious and anxious creatives, Tignor shares 4 gems to help you increase your worth in this new year.
Register at a copyright office
“At a minimum, do an audit of your top work and ensure that you have registered them with the copyright office,” Tignor says. This is especially important if you plan to collaborate or partner with another creator, brand, etc.
Read the terms & conditions of the contracts
When exploring monetization partnerships or programs with different platforms, Tignor stresses it is important to request to see the terms in writing and READ THEM including the areas designated to the treatment of your intellectual property.
She says: “Put a contract in place the moment you decide to work with anyone…including your friends. It provides clarity on who will own what and how the parties will be compensated.”
Shore up your business foundation with basic housekeeping
It is important to know what your business’s legal structure is and how it suits your needs, for example, making sure your business is registered and finding out your federal and state tax identification number.
Pay attention to what’s happening with your state and local government
As an intellectual property expert, Tignor affirms that there has been a legislative shift in the focus on the creator economy – especially at the local level. She says: “ Legislators understand that a thriving creator economy increases the quality of life for everyone – as a result, there are a number of programs, grants, and opportunities available through your state and local government.”
Although we have a long way to go with equality for creators of color, BAUCEs like Kim Tignor are not only bringing awareness to the situation but providing solutions for creatives which leaves us feeling optimistic.