Posts Tagged European Commission

Authors’ Remuneration – The last resort: going to court

There is an interesting court case underway concerning the remuneration of an author that is attracting interest on both sides of the Atlantic.

Harry Shearer, a composer and co-writer behind the cult film “This is Spinal Tap” (among many, many others) is taking Vivendi’ Universal Music Group and Studio Canal to court (interviewed in Le Monde on 1st December 2016) seeking 125 million dollars in compensatory and punitive damages for unpaid royalties from the exploitation of the film.

Mr Shearer’s complaint echoes the story of SAA patron, Roger Michell, when he spoke about his experience as the director of Notting Hill at the launch of the SAA White Paper last year.

These cases are striking examples of the many problems that screenwriters and directors face. Even those authors who are able to negotiate fair deals often find it difficult to enforce them or have any visibility on whether the reporting received is accurate. This isn’t about demonising producers, they’re not bad by nature and they play a vital role in the financing and production process. It is about ensuring that screenwriters and directors, who negotiate their contracts before filming is even guaranteed, are connected economically to their works for the duration of their exploitation.

It is rare for an individual creator to go to court, the risks of ruining relationships and being blacklisted are very real. As demonstrated in our Infographic, they are facing very big players.


In its proposal for a Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market presented on 14 September 2016, the European Commission proposes to generalise an exploitation transparency obligation (authors should receive on a regular basis information on the exploitation of their works) and a contract adjustment mechanism for authors considering that the remuneration originally agreed is disproportionately low compared to the revenues derived from the exploitation of the work. These are welcome provisions to start addressing the issue even if they need some amendments to ensure that they deliver the intended effect and are not easily avoided.

However, is it really the solution? Going to court each time the audiovisual industry neglects or ignores the authors’ right to be connected economically to the exploitation of their works? At SAA, we believe that another solution is possible, in particular for the online exploitation. Audiovisual authors urgently need a EU legal basis for remuneration schemes providing them with income for the online exploitation of their works across Europe. SAA calls for the introduction in the proposed Directive of an unwaivable and inalienable right to remuneration for audiovisual authors that would be collected and distributed by collective management organisations from the online platforms who distribute audiovisual works to the public. It is now up to the Council (Member States) and the European Parliament to introduce this proposal to ensure that the digital challenges of audiovisual authors are also addressed by this Directive.

It will be very interesting to see how Harry Shearer’s case plays out and how the European legislators will strengthen the situation of screenwriters and directors in Europe so this sort of thing doesn’t happen.

In the meantime follow Harry Shearer’s progress on his Fairness Rocks website and SAA’s website for updates on the progress of the European legislation.



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Vergütung von Filmurhebern

Our infographic is also available in English, French, Spanish and Croatian with a video available here.  #AVauthorsRemuneration


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La remuneración de los autores audiovisuales

Our infographic is also available in English, French, German and Croatian with a video available here. #AVauthorsRemuneration saa_avauthorsremunerationes

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La rémunération des auteurs audiovisuels

Our infographic is also available in English, German, Spanish and Croatian with a video available here. #AVauthorsRemunerationsaa_avauthorsremunerationfr

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Audiovisual Authors’ Remuneration – from remuneration to transparency?

Ahead of the European Commission’s copyright announcements, SAA today publishes its infographic on audiovisual authors’ remuneration.

The Commission has made many calls to improve authors’ remuneration. It now seems that they are satisfied with a transparency triangle of 1) exploitation transparency, 2) contract adjustment mechanism, 3) an alternative dispute resolution mechanism. As we have already said, this transparency triangle is certainly not a bad thing and is an absolute minimum. Were the transparency triangle to lose a corner then it would be useless. But it is not direct remuneration. It is not money in the pockets of creators from day 1.

SAA’s remuneration infographic gathers together the results from various studies from across Europe. While screenwriters and directors are the original rightsholders behind our favourite films, documentaries and TV series, it seems that across Europe they are being disconnected from ongoing remuneration based on the exploitation of their works. Worse still, less creators are able to make a living solely from their creative endeavours and more are being asked to work for free.

Both the Commission and the Parliament have recognised this is a problem but, if the leaks are anything to go by, the proposal doesn’t tackle the underlying problem – a weak negotiating position.

Often freelancers, working in isolation, screenwriters and directors are not well placed to defend their own interests against very big and increasingly vertically integrated players with billions of Euros in turnover. The lump sum contracts that authors are increasingly asked to sign, or even the good contracts with planned ongoing remuneration that some authors are able to negotiate but not enforce, won’t be fixed by a law that leaves the authors alone to enforce their rights.

Screenwriters and directors need to be able to act collectively to enforce their rights. There is a real fear that individuals who stand up for their rights are marked as trouble makers and can be blacklisted. The Dutch and German laws that include best-seller clauses both enable collective action. Without it, any such provision is practically useless unless an author at the end of their career can be found to set a precedent.

The infographic shows how essential it is for authors to act collectively to create the conditions for fair remuneration for their works throughout Europe. This is why the Commission’s copyright proposal can make a concrete and positive response to the authors, through the recognition of the unwaivable right to compensation for all European authors as presented in SAA’s 2015 white paper.

Europe has a strong tradition of producing great story tellers, SAA’s infographic tries to tell their story and show how Europe can keep them telling stories in the digital future.



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Audiovisual Authors’ Remuneration

Our infographic is also available in French, German, Spanish and Croatian with a video available here. #AVauthorsRemunerationsaa_avauthorsremuneration

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Leaks, Copyright and Remuneration

The last 10 days have seen more light shined on the European Commission’s copyright plans following a series of leaks – an Impact Assessment, a draft Directive, a draft Communication. The scope is broad, but the Commission has long promised that the issue of remuneration will be tackled.

Is it?

Kind of. In the leaked texts, the Commission tackles transparency for authors and performers – an important part of what makes it difficult for authors to be paid fairly. However, and especially in the audiovisual sector, while transparency is of course good progress, it is not going to overcome many of the underlying challenges faced by screenwriters and directors.

SAA is going to demonstrate some of these challenges ahead of the Commission’s proposal, scheduled for 21st September. The current legislation is a great opportunity to go beyond transparency and actually strengthen the remuneration position of audiovisual authors. It would be a shame after so many grand declarations (here, here, here and here) for that opportunity to go to waste.

Keep an eye on our blog as well as our twitter feed @saabrussels and #AVauthorsRemuneration for more information.

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