1st Joint Communiqué

The Federation of Screenwriters in Europe (FSE) and the International Affiliation of Writers Guilds (IAWG) has published its first joint communiqué since the World Conference of Screenwriters in Athens last November.

Together, we represent approximately 25,000 writers in 27 countries; together, we can best meet the challenges of our changing industry.

We plan to circulate periodic communiqués on matters of mutual interest in the areas of copyright, collective bargaining, collective licensing and the profile of the screenwriter.

Oscar-nominated scripts online

Want to read the scripts written by the nominees for the 2010 Best Screenplay Oscar and Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar?

Thanks to Raindance.org you can access of all of them online!

Busy Awards Weekend

This past weekend there were film awards handed out in four different countries:

Congratulations to all the screenwriters who won awards!

Australian collection agency row

Tensions occasionally occur between agencies tasked to collect money for the use of copyrighted work and the artists they represent based on the manner in which these monies are distributed, and the cut the agencies allocate to themselves.

A major row on this delicate matter has erupted in Australia, according to a report in The Australian.

The Copyright Agency Limited (CAL), founded in 1989, is the Australian agency that collects money from institutions using copyrighted works. The newspaper alleged that CAL had paid itself more in salaries than it allocated to its authors and artists.

But the collection agency last year paid $9.4 million in salaries, compared with a $9.1m direct allocation for authors and artists.

Among the highest paid at CAL was its chief executive Jim Alexander, who earned more than $350,000 last year, while another senior staff member earned between $250,000 and $299,000, another between $200,000 and 249,000, and five others between $150,000 and $199,000. A further 21 staff earned between $100,000 and $149,000.

In addition, the agency spent more than $300,000 on travel for its top executives, including a trip for its three senior executives to an International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations conference in Barbados, and a trip for four employees and board members to the Beijing Writers Festival.

CAL responded angrily to the accusation with a rebuttal on its web site.

While it is true that only $9.1 million was paid directly to authors and artists, a further $75.9 million was paid to Australian publishers and then redistributed by publisher members to authors and artists under private contractual arrangements.  Indeed of the $114 million collected in 2008/9, 86% was paid to rightsholders.

As former ASA Executive Director Jeremy Fisher points out in the article, this system of direct and indirect payment is relatively opaque, and has the potential to lead to disputes between authors and publishers. That is why CAL is in the process of implementing a new distribution system, CALdirect, under which authors and publishers will be paid directly on the terms agreed privately between them. This system, which is specifically designed to allow authors and publishers the flexibility to implement individual agreements on a title-by-title basis, is a world first and places CAL at forefront of collecting agencies worldwide.

The article also suggests that CAL’s expenditure on salaries is disproportionately high. In fact CAL’s total operations budget in 2008/9 was $15.6 million, or 13.7% of total revenue. This marked a decrease in both real and percentage terms on the 2007/8 figure of $17.4 million, itself a decrease on the 2006/7 figure of $18.1 million, results achieved in the context of significant investment in developing CALdirect.

So the matter is not as straightforward as The Australian‘s article implies. However, I suspect most Australian writers would be delighted if their salaries were even a quarter of what the senior executives in CAL earn.

The European Screenwriters Manifesto

Launched in February 2007, the Screenwriters Manifesto is available to read in English, and other languages, on the website of the Federation of Screenwriters in Europe.  Signatures are regularly coming in. Show your support and sign the declaration of rights for screenwriters.

If you signed the Manifesto between February 2009 and January 2010, we may have lost your signature. Please do not hesitate to sign it again!

New Year New Look

WCOS assemblyWe’re well into 2010 at this point, so it’s time to open up the windows on the Conference site, and change the linen.

I’ve updated the site to different look, and the new banner is courtesy of the lovely Amélie Clement, who continues to work for the Federation of Screenwriters in Europe with dedication.

There is also a gallery section on the site, featuring photos from the conference, and the press section now contains links to articles that were written about the conference.

I hope it will bring back good memories of the conference, recall fellowship and solidarity, and serve as a reminder that there is much work yet to accomplish.

Joint Activity Programme – IAWG/FSE

The Board of the FSE and the PRG of the IAWG have discussed the strengthening working relationships between the two organisations, which have grown quickly following the solidarity campaigns of guilds around the world with their colleagues in the writers’ strike in the United States which ended in February 2008, and which will be further cemented during the first World Conference of Screenwriters in Athens in November 2009.

Recognising the limited resources of both organisations and the press of  many priorities but nonetheless determined to strengthen and deepen working relationships between our organisations in the interest of writers everywhere we have agreed that we will:

  1. Establish an information system on the FSE and IAWG websites to keep member guilds of each organisation informed of the activities of the other.
  2. Agree a system of exchange of information between guilds about topics of collective interest, by establishing and circulating a contact list of all the world’s writers’ guilds and by publishing and distributing an occasional global e-newsletter.
  3. Arrange to have observers at one another’s meetings.
  4. Set up a group to work together virtually to agree a glossary of basic terms related to writers, writing and their remuneration that could be agreed globally.
  5. Set up a group to work together virtually that would agree basic terms in respect of writers’ credits that could be agreed globally.
  6. Establish a joint campaign on the right to collective bargaining, beginning with an analysis of common problems.
  7. Establish a joint campaign on the future of collecting societies in the digital world, starting with an analysis of the relationship of writers’ guilds to collecting societies worldwide.
  8. Stand ready to support one another in the event of any crisis situation by appropriate solidarity activities.
  9. Take note of the debates and conclusions of the first World Conference of Screenwriters.
  10. Initiate a discussion about the desirability and practicality of establishing a global organisation for screenwriters.