Fair remuneration is not a tax

If there is one thing we know about Big Tech, they don’t like paying tax. Even when it isn’t a tax.

The communication campaign against fair remuneration for authors and performers has started. Big Tech can’t possibly be seen to be against fair remuneration so how can they oppose it?

Tax. If they can dress this remuneration up as a tax, then they think they’re on to a winner:

Deprive authors of their exclusive rights to authorise reproductions and provide them with compensation – call it an iPod tax.

Publishers want to be able to better control the use of their works online – call it a Google tax.

So let’s call “fair remuneration for online exploitation” a YouTube tax. There it is. It’s practically a tax on innovation.

Make no mistake – the whole debate around these “taxes” is about negotiating positions and who gets how much of the pie. YouTube pays relative peanuts for the use of music compared to fully licensed online services because there are enough grey areas in the legislation and business model to weaken the negotiating position of the music CMOs, producers and publishers.

SAA’s 2015 white paper showed that audiovisual authors’ royalties in 2013 from their CMOs represents only 0.37% of industry revenues.  This isn’t all the pay screenwriters and directors receive but it paints a bleak picture.

Something needs to change, and those who may have to pay are against it. Calling remuneration a tax is cynical and simple.  Will it work?

SAA supports an unwaivable right to remuneration for screenwriters and directors, that would be handled on a collective basis. This is not a tax or a levy – it is not an amount set and collected by the government to fund the public budget.

It is a system that defers a market negotiation and makes it fairer in two ways – 1) the negotiation takes place closer to the actual moment of exploitation when the value can more accurately be determined. 2) the negotiation and collection is handled collectively meaning that individual freelance authors are no longer alone in negotiating with much bigger entities.

Being paid fairly for your work is not a tax. In the case of screenwriters and directors, being fairly paid for your intellectual property is not a tax either. There are so many ways to watch films and TV series now and new services are being developed all the time. We need to recognise that an upfront contract signed before a film is even made cannot provide fair and proportionate remuneration to its creators.

Change is needed but let’s not be fooled by alarmist calls of “taxation”.

JT

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  1. Look! a Netflix tax! | SAA - Society of Audiovisual Authors

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