Fair working conditions for the next generation of screenwriters and directors

If the left hand of the European Commission would know what the right hand is doing, the discussions about whether audiovisual authors’ right to fair remuneration for the exploitation of their works should be a part of the new Copyright Directive in the Digital Single Market, would not be questioned.

It would be clear that remuneration is not only a matter of copyright but also of fair working conditions and decent living standard that enables creators to live off their works. Fair would be to ensure that authors receive income not only from their initial contract but also from the exploitation of their works. Unfortunately, this is not the case, especially not for online exploitation.

Last year the European Commission presented the ‘European Pillar of Social Rights’ to guide its work, among the many principles are the ambitions to foster equal opportunities, fair working conditions and ‘the right to fair wages that provides for a decent standard of living’ and preventing precarious working conditions and atypical contracts. These are all issues that concerns audiovisual authors but that are not considered when negotiating the new Copyright Directive.

Initial findings of a study by the Federation of European Film Directors (FERA) and the Federation of Screenwriters in Europe (FSE) shows that audiovisual authors have extremely unstable incomes, that are usually very modest. Investing the time, energy and resources necessary to create, has become increasingly difficult. Very few can make ends meet through their income as an author and needs to find alternative work to support themselves.

Many authors and signatories of the online declaration and petition testify that they work alone and unpaid for large amounts of time. As viewers we only see the film itself, which is the end-product of a project that can take between two to ten years to create. Screenwriter and director Josef Hader that we recently interviewed worked on his screenplay for two and a half years, and for half a year on the making of his film. In other words, it is a long way from when an idea is being developed until it becomes a film that is being released and promoted (see our infographic illustrating the process). At the same time, audiovisual creators often take on many ideas and projects before any of them make it to screen.  

Economic insecurity is a real concern for those at the beginning or end of their career. Including all sources of personal income young authors have annual income of less than €15,000. If they can sustain a career, this rises to €30,000 for men and €24,000 for women at the age of fifty, following which it drops again to less than €15,000 at 65. Promoting youth employment and entrepreneurship has long been top priorities for the European Commission’s labour market policies, yet without fair remuneration for the exploitation of authors’ works, young creators will not be able to sustain and reinvent Europe’s cultural diversity, to their full potential.      

The same study also points out the secondary payments that audiovisual authors receive, including from their Collective Management Organisations. This secondary source of revenue brings a certain level of financial stability to most freelance authors, particularly during the periods of creative project development. Including an unwaivable right to remuneration for on-demand exploitation in the Copyright Directive can significantly contribute to audiovisual authors economic stability. It would for example allow them to receive fair remuneration paid by their Collective Management Society as soon as their works is being viewed on a digital platform in any of the European Union Member States.

FERA, FSE and SAA, on behalf of the European audiovisual authors’ community, is working to make this a reality for the next generation of screenwriters and directors.



Sign the Petition - Support Europe’s screenwriters and directors

126 prominent screenwriters and directors across Europe have come together to call on the legislators of the European Union to seize the momentum of the adoption of the Copyright Directive in the Digital Single Market to support Europe’s creators in the online environment.

Read more about our campaign.