Copyright – Its time to start issuing invoices

Copyright is one of the defining economic elements of creative activities. You could almost say that if you can’t copyright something then it probably isn’t a creative practice.  Actors, dancers, visual artists, writers, composers, musicians all have copyright. (So do architects and games designers and a host of creative industries workers). Artists copyright is protected by national and international law.  It’s potentially one of the most powerful earning tools in an artists career. And yet, here in Ireland, for the majority of Irish Artists it’s almost impossible to collect. So here’s what could happen.

Obviously if you’re a visual artist trying to do a deal with a Gallery, surviving on €15 – 20K per year; if you’re an actor lucky enough to get €10k worth of film work, or a songwriter recording material in a garage, or a first time novelist negotiating a deal, or a film-maker desperately needing the support of the established production company, you don’t have the resources to hire the legal person to negotiate your contract, hell you don’t even have the clout to walk away from the negotiation, and once your work is recorded, sold on, published in whatever form you don’t have the means or the knowledge to track it as it travels in a global marketplace.

Let’s put this in perspective. In 2018 The Irish Music Rights Organisation (IMRO) collected €37.9 million in music royalties in Ireland and distributed €32.3 million of that to the copyright holders.

According to CISAC (The International Confederation of societies of authors and composers)  THE ONLY ROYALTIES COLLECTED IN IRELAND WERE FOR MUSIC.

For a country with an audiovisual sector and a wider arts sector valued at close to €3bn – that’s pretty slack.

CISAC have collected so much data at this stage that it is possible to make some statistical speculations. Looking at their data we can speculate that on average royalty collection at this time should be about 0.025% of GDP (I’ve written about this in more detail here).  GDP in 2018 was €324bn.  So, total royalties should have been in the region of €81 million.  €37 million was collected by IMRO, suggesting that €43 million was uncollected for everybody else.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that Copyright will solve everybody’s financial problems.  But €43 million is a significant chunk of money – and its being lost! Every year! And its a right! And it’s being denied.

So here’s the idea: as CISAC will tell you its really hard for individual artists to manage and control their copyright – which is why CMOs exist (Collections Management Organisations). Therefore, what the artists and creatives living in Ireland need   is a single CMO, affiliated to CISAC, representing the interests of all artists and creative practitioners in the country across all disciplines.

Such an agency could be formed by an alliance of representatives from the Writers Guild, Irish EquityIrish Visual Artists Rights OrganisationScreen Composers Guild Ireland,  RAAP  with  support and guidance from IMRO.  Such an agency will have legislation – national and international – on its side,  and the advantage of size.

One of the key reasons copyright is neither enforced nor collected in Ireland is that individual artists do not have the means to track, manage and collect it – and we tend to think that someone will give it to us. Copyright is a right, it’s time the owners of it took control of it.

So, Big Idea Number 2 from the Lock – In.  Get all the representative agencies in a room, create an all artist Collection Management Agency, and start issuing invoices.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.