“Unfair and coercive” buyout practices are putting creatives at “a considerable risk” and legislation must be implemented to stop them, a collective of authors rights groups has said.
The Grouping of European Authors’ Societies (GESAC) warned that the buyout deals being offered to creatives by the likes of Netflix and Prime Video need “legal solutions at EU level” to ensure “appropriate and proportionate” remuneration is “effectively implemented.”
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GESAC, which represents 32 authors societies from across the continent, said this would stop “non-EU-based giant platforms imposing U.S. rules and jurisdiction in their contracts, as it has growlingly been the case.”
Remuneration and residuals were among the biggest sticking points during the U.S. writers strike, while many European countries have been negotiating success-based systems with streamers to ensure their creative talent is paid properly for their content. The EU brought in the Digital Single Market (DSM) directive in 2019, which it says safeguards European businesses from unfavorable trading terms.
GESAC’s demands come following publication of an independent study commissioned by the European Parliament. The findings recommend legislation to protect authors and composers from buyout deals, which hand all the copyright to their work to the buyer.
The study claimed that “widespread” buyout agreements “impact creators, pushing them into precarious economic situations and compromising the quality of their work”, while reducing their “visibility” on the success of their creations.
The study noted that opinion on buyouts among creative unions “vary” but claimed “particularly those representing professionals creators highlight serious threats,” and added the “cultural aspects of copyright needs” must be factored into legislation. The study also noted broadcasters and producers usually take a different position, believing more time should be taken to assess the impact of the DSM directive.
Recommendations included an “urgent need to review the existing legal framework” around copyright law and directives to “protect authors and performing artists, by guaranteeing appropriate and fair remuneration, freedom of creation and preservation of cultural diversity.”
The study says more collective agreements could be sought‚ which “can balance bargaining power,” flagging examples in Sweden, Denmark and Germany. The idea of creating a new legal status for creators in the EU was also floated.
For their part, the streamers see their investment in European content as opening up a new avenue of revenue for creatives and providing opportunities to strike deals that would otherwise not exist. Buyout deals also provide a significant upfront fee, though this has increasingly been seen as a negative without a residuals system in place to reward success.
“The study rightly underlines the disastrous impact of the growing phenomenon of buyout on creators and on the cultural sector, which play a key role in the European economy and innovation,” said Véronique Desbrosses, General Manager of GESAC. “It provides independent evidence and adds to the recent calls from the European Parliament and the Member States for legislative proposals from the European Commission, noting the urgency of an EU action. The legacy of the current European co-legislators is clear: It is time for action.”
Deadline has contacted Netflix, Amazon, Disney, Warner Bros Discovery and Paramount for comment.