Voices of Culture message to EU countries: fair practices for cultural and creative professionals

(c) European Commission

Voices of Culture call on the EU to adopt a holistic approach to determining the social and economic status of artists and cultural workers. The SAA has been part of developing its recommendations addressing fair pay, flattening income variations, collective bargaining, intellectual property rights and grants.

Voices of Culture report on the status and working conditions of artists, cultural and creative professionals is the result of a structured dialogue between the European Commission and the cultural sector (more about the process). 100 organisations applied to be a part of the dialogue, 47 organisations (local, national, and European) were selected; the SAA was one of them.

Highlights from the report

The report welcomes that the EU recognises more and more the contribution of culture to the European diversity and economy. Yet, it has not done enough to improve the working conditions of the individuals who “make culture”, such as authors, performers and other cultural professionals. What they need is public recognition (legal, social, political), adequate protection, support and freedom. Furthermore, the uneven landscape of Member States’ support during the pandemic is not sustainable for artists and cultural and creative workers to collaborate across borders, co-create and showcase their work.  

The report acknowledges that while the European cultural ecosystem encompasses various disciplines and sub-sectors, all facing different issues, many of the root causes are common, such as the atypical nature of work and the digital opportunities and challenges (including IP rights’ violation and censorship), unbalanced power and resources’ distribution along the creative value chains (artists being at the base but often in a weak position).

The stakeholders pointed out that work-for-hire contracts deprive authors from their rights and royalties in exchange for a single lump sum payment; not accepting such a contract can lead to less opportunities or even being blacklisted. Instead, the aim should be fair revenue sharing models for the exploitation of works and performances, also online. Transposing the EU Copyright directive, the right to fair and proportionate remuneration and its transparency obligation, is a way to ensure a fair revenue sharing model. Recognising the role of social partners and representative organisations in undertaking collective bargaining is another way to empower the weaker party. The report suggests making fair practice a compulsory condition for funding, and it also stress that right to fair payment is an integral aspect of artistic freedom.

Other interesting recommendations included in the report, is a proposal of an Ombudsman (public defender) for freelancers in the cultural sector and a European social security card for cultural workers, recognised across all Member States.

What is next?

The report will be shared with Member States who are going to work on the issue via an Open Method of Coordination (OMC) group as of September, gathering experts from the Culture and Employment Ministries, with the aim to develop recommendations in a year from now. The OMC is commonly used in EU policy areas in which the EU has no strong competence. Although the EU’s competence in the area of culture is limited, and the OMC group recommendations are non-binding on Member States, I hope that the stakeholders’ voices will be heard and their challenges and proposals, be considered.

The right to fair remuneration is a crucial building block to improve artists and cultural and creative workers status. Such fair revenue sharing models, as highlighted in the report, is a part of the bigger picture of the cultural and creative environment. Hence, as the report calls for, a holistic approach is needed.

The SAA will continue to take part in and follow the topics, not least in the European Parliament, where the draft report by MEP SEMEDO, on the situation of artists and cultural recovery in the EU, will be voted on after the summer.