Flourishing industries profit from struggling authors?
“Creative industries have never been as prosperous in terms of turnover as they are now. The content creators though have never received so little”
said Jean-Michel Jarre, music composer at a conference in the European Parliament celebrating the European Year of Cultural Heritage. Indeed, new studies from France and the UK confirm that while the creative industries are flourishing, authors and filmmakers’ earnings are declining.
La Scam study tells a gloomy story about documentary filmmakers’ relationship with production companies. In short, the remuneration system does not reflect the reality of the work. Filmmakers testify that the compensation received does not correspond to the actual hours spent making a film. One said that even with 38 years of professional experience as a director and 650 hours of filmmaking, it is still better paid per hour to be in the cleaning profession. 59% of documentary filmmakers say that their material situation has deteriorated in recent years, and the gender gap is unacceptably high (18% difference between men and women).
The lack of transparency from the producers about the exploitation of an author’s film is another concern. 79% never receive information about the exploitation of their works. "I have a movie that has been sold in more than twenty countries. I have never received any remuneration from my producer. Producers never come back to you after the film is broadcasted" said one of the authors to La Scam. Authors that request the accounts are often either ignored or met with distrust.
Another recent study by ALCS (Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society) points out that the creative industries in the UK – now valued at £92 billion – are growing at twice the rate of the UK economy as a whole, and at the same time the median earnings for professional writers have plummeted by 42% since 2005, and the gender gap is getting bigger despite a high number of female professional authors in the UK.
Prior to the recent above-mentioned studies, SACD (Société des Auteurs et Compositeurs Dramatiques) in France has for several years reported on the imbalance in the relationship between authors and producers.
If screenwriters and directors continue to be unfairly and unproportionately remunerated for their works, it will ruin them and impoverish cultural diversity at large. Furthermore, it will discourage young authors from entering the profession knowing they will never be able to make a living from their works. Yet there is hope; the European Parliament has the power to reverse the trend by confirming its report on the Copyright Directive in the Digital Single Market that includes a principle of fair and proportionate remuneration for authors and performers for the exploitation of their works. On 20 June SAA, FERA and FSE welcomed the European Parliament’s report on the Directive as a good first step for audiovisual authors (press release). A week later, we united with Europe’s cultural and creative sectors to deliver a short message to Members of the Parliament: uphold the mandate on copyright at the plenary vote on 5 July to support creation in Europe.
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