Copyright – How much are we really talking about here?

To follow up on my previous article about copyright, and as a contribution to the recently published Arts Council Policy, Paying The Artist, I thought I’d ask the question how much is copyright worth? Because nobody has ever given me a satisfactory answer (an actual number), and every politician and bureaucrat I’ve raised it with has dismissed it as either too insignificant to worry about or an irritating obstacle to foreign investment and job creation. So, I did a bit of digging and I came up with a number….

If you believe Ireland’s GDP figures then in 2018 €81 million should have been collected in Ireland and distributed to artists across Music, Audiovisual, Dramatic, Visual Arts, and Literature. That’s right – more than the Arts Council’s annual budget for that year, more than the total arts programme grants from all the local authorities, more than the Culture Ireland budget, etc. etc.

That’s if the GDP figures are genuine.

According to the CISAC Annual and Collections Reports for the relevant years €30,000,000 was actually collected in Ireland and pretty much all of that was for music. The CISAC data collection methodology is fairly robust; IMRO and IVARO are both members of CISAC; so given the information available to CISAC it looks like the Music sector collected €30,000,000 and the other four areas collected nothing or next to nothing.

That would mean that €51,000,000 due to artists and the creators of work was not collected or distributed to them.

That number, by itself is a strong business case for the establishment of a single national collection agency to act on behalf of those working in Visual Arts, Literature, Dramatic, Audiovisual and Music sectors.

OK, how do we get a number of €81,000,000. Well, according to various CISAC reports over the last decade – all available online – we can see that global copyright collections have been increasing year on year reaching over €9,000,000,000 in 2016

We can also see that Music accounts for the lion’s share of all copyright collections globally, that the audiovisual sector is the next largest, followed by Literature, Dramatic and then visual arts:

It’s also important to note that Europe leads the way in copyright collections:

Its interesting to note that with reference to Europe the CISAC report states: “Europe remained the largest source of collections in 2016, which rose 3.1% year-on-year to €5,201 million. France, Germany and the United Kingdom are the largest markets. Hungary remains the world leader in collections in relation to GDP”.

Given the richness of the data available in Europe, it’s possible to calculate an expectation of what royalties should be as a percentage of GDP. That number is 0.025%

We can use that percentage to build a table of what the value of Royalty collections in Ireland should have been over the last decade:

There are questions over the validity of GDP as a realistic measurement of the Irish economy, and so GNI is considered a more accurate valuation. So, if GDP is accurate then from 2009 to 2018 the total copyright that should have been collected can be estimated at €553.28 million. If we adjust for GNI then the total should have been €379.42 million. There are of course other variables to consider but given that, according to CISAC, Ireland collected approximately €6.19 per capita, as opposed to Denmark’s €24.54, Sweden’s €13.34 or Belgium’s €11.46, these estimates are not unrealistic.

The question of course is why we are collecting so little of the copyright value generated? Again, the answer is complex, but we should bear in mind that there are currently 107 collection societies affiliated with CISAC and active across the territory, only two of which are Irish (IMRO and IVARO). In addition to this there appears to be a general reluctance on the part of legislators to engage with the copyright issue. IVARO state on their website that

“Irish artists are experiencing serious and ongoing difficulties in collecting the royalties to which they are entitled. The Directive which introduced the right across the European Union in 2006 was improperly transposed into Irish law via a statutory instrument rather than legislation. The weak regulations have resulted in a low level of compliance from the art market profession, in particular from galleries and art dealers, many of whom have largely ignored or avoided the right. The regulations do not provide an effective mechanism for the collection of royalties due to artists and their heirs. This has led to a continuing and unacceptable loss of income to artists.

The EU Directive gave member states a considerable amount of freedom in how they implemented certain elements of the Directive. Member states could for example, choose the threshold at which a royalty was due, they could set the royalty % rate, and, most importantly, dictate how the right would be managed.

Unfortunately, instead of introducing the Resale Right through legislation, Ireland missed the deadline and rushed the implementation through a statutory instrument. The various options in the EU Directive which would have made the Resale Right more meaningful to artists could only be adopted through legislation. This has had a significantly negative impact on the benefit of the resale right for Irish artists.” (emphasis added)

The Screen Composers Guild of Ireland are also concerned about the copyright problem in Ireland, as they state on their website

“Screen Composers Guild of Ireland is working with Irish and European creator organisations including ESCA, GESAC, IMRO, Screen Writers Guild and many more to call for the ratification of the European copyright directive and fair remuneration for creators in the commercial exploitation of their works”.

A member of Irish Equity also recently commented:

“As a performer working in the audiovisual industry I have been well aware of the value of contracts that reflect the truevalue of the revenue streams arising from the ongoing exploitation of TV and film productions. I have worked on UK and US contracts and when a production enjoys a success across all the platforms (Broadcast/DVD/Internet rental/download to own/ streaming etc.,) the value of my contract goes up. The contract that was foisted on Irish performers by the Irish producers over the last 25 years, works in reverse, the greater the success of the production the value of the contract diminishes. It is questionable if this is even legal given the protections afforded performers under the Copy Right Act. It is time that any producer in receipt of public subsidy should engage Irish performers on terms and conditions of assignment of rights that reflect the protections of the Copy Right Act. More importantly that treats the Irish professional performers to equal terms and condition as any other performer on the same production whose fees are being subsidised by the Irish taxpayer”

If there is one thing that seems fairly clear its that copyright collections in Ireland are well below what they could be, and that Irish artists and creatives have missed out on at least €379.42 million since 2009. This alone seems to be a sufficient argument for the creation of a national collection agency afilliated to CISCAC availing of their expertise, legal support, lobbying power, training and collection technologies.

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