Experts share top advice on fair remuneration for screenwriters and directors
- The seminar organised by the SAA provided in-depth expertise on how best to implement the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market
On Wednesday 2 June, the Society of Audiovisual Authors (SAA) hosted a seminar entitled “Experts' top advice on fair remuneration for screenwriters and directors: Implementing Article 18 of the EU Copyright Directive”. The event came a few days before the deadline (set on 7 June) for transposing the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market (known as Article 18) into national law, but few EU countries will be able to meet it.
The aim of the seminar was to discuss the advantages of the right to fair remuneration and to address member states’ questions over its implications for contractual freedom, the transfer of exploitation rights to producers, payments by users, collective rights management, and its impact on the industry itself. The discussion was moderated by Barbara Hayes, Chair of the SAA and Deputy Chief Executive of the Authors’ Licensing & Collecting Society (UK), and involved four speakers: Vice-Chair of the Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament Ibán García del Blanco (S&D, Spain), copyright law specialist and Universitat Oberta de Catalunya Intellectual Property Chair Professor Raquel Xalabarder, Paris' Sciences Po Law Professor Séverine Dusollier and Dominik Skoczek, Managing Director at Poland's ZAPA.
The floor was first opened to García del Blanco, who hoped for an increased level of copyright understanding on the part of the public and who pledged his support to guaranteeing cultural diversity and to exploiting the current crisis, viewing it as an opportunity to bring about change for the better. His speech was followed by a recorded video message from veteran German screenwriter Fred Breinersdorfer, who explained that the average salary of his colleagues stands at around €50,000-€60,000 per year, mostly earned through the writing of TV productions. He stressed that whilst this figure might not sound too bad, it still falls below the remuneration of other qualified professionals such as doctors or lawyers and, usually, writers would need to work on one or two scripts per year in order to be paid fairly. In most cases, however, they are only able to work on one project every two years, which severely impacts their ability to make ends meet. He conceded that streamers had probably brought about more opportunities, but he insisted that they “don't pay very well” or guarantee steady incomes, not to mention the low “success rate” of writers' work (i.e., developed scripted projects brought to completion), which stands at 10-15% for Breinersdorfer, but which is even lower for most of his colleagues.
Dusollier provided various contextual insights and touched upon the role of CMOs and the whole contractualisation flow, involving the authors and the producers initially, and later co-producers, international sales agents, intermediaries, distributors and digital platforms. Xalabarder welcomed the implementation of Article 18, though she claimed that simply “copy-pasting it” wouldn’t be sufficient. She explained that the directive follows the principle of appropriate and proportionate remuneration (not as a binding principle, but as an obligation) and it applies to any license or transfer of exploitation rights, as well as on both new and old productions. In particular, Recital 73 grants member states the freedom to use “existing or newly introduced mechanisms, which could include collective bargaining”, provided that these are in conformity with the EU law.
Skoczek's talk focused on the Polish market, chosen as a case study for Central Eastern Europe. The Polish film industry often sees screenwriters signing inconvenient buy-out contracts, which sell exclusive rights to the producers for a one-off fee. Another issue affecting the market relates to end distributors who have been obliged to pay statutory royalties. However, only a minority of these entities are willing to conclude contracts and clear their status, and some take advantage of every possible means to avoid paying royalties, such as entering into lengthy court proceedings and negotiations. The lack of binding tariffs and proper enforcement of these rules contributes to this critical situation. With regard to a possible solution, Skoczek highlighted that “the unwaivable right to remuneration would be the best way to ensure a fair share of revenue for authors.” In this sense, the implementation of Article 18 represents a great opportunity to fill the current legislative gap.
An open discussion moderated by Hayes and a short video made by European authors and performers rounded off the seminar.
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