Strength in Unity- achieving Authors rewards

Any European cinematographer who has worked on a British Film subsequently screened in some European countries is entitled to join the British Collecting Society and receive remuneration for their craftsmanship.

Over 4 Million pounds has been collected from European sources by Screen Craft Rights for the benefit of cinematographers and HOD’s working on British Film and Television productions since it was established as a Collecting Society in 2011. The total distribution for the year to April 2018 was just under £620,000, almost double the £350.000 of the previous year. This sum received a further double boost by the settlement of a claim for back-tax of £295,000 owed to craft heads by German Federal Tax Authorities and an email from Bild Kunst with news of the transfer of over 680,000 euros as settlement for rights of downloading images to tablets and smartphones for the years 2010-2016, a new and exciting source of reward.
This is the result of patient negotiation by SCR’s Chief Executive Suzan Dormer. The “back tax” payment has been cleared by the British authorities the HMRC. It was SCR good fortunate to secure Suzan’s services from the founding of the Society. She previously worked in the industry representing the interests of directors for 30 years as General Secretary of the Directors Guild where she was instrumental in the establishment of the Directors and Producers Rights Society, which later became Directors UK.

Discussions are ongoing with the possibility of securing a possible agreement between SCR and a Swiss Collecting Society. This follows disclosure that payments in Switzerland may not be restricted, as hitherto, to “home-grown” talent. Collecting arrangements are payable to SCR under EU Law by Germany, Sweden, Austria, Finland and Norway. (others find ways of avoiding the payment). Future residuals for British craft recognition will depend on the terms of any Brexit Accord. Unless such an arrangement (as exists between Norway and the EU), is ratified it would probably be optimistic and unwise for cinematographers, editors, designers and costume designers to expect further residuals too far into the future.
The success of Screen Craft Rights is an example of the collective wisdom and determination by the BSC, GBCT and GBTE to work together with the film union, BECTU. The collaboration between the craft organisations was steered by BECTU Assistant General Secretary, Martin Spence, prior to his retirement. The initial founding members were later joined by the BFDG representing set designers. The SCR Collecting Society members owe much to the expertise of Suzan Dormer who has patiently sifted through many thousands of programmes to find residuals owing to eligible HOD’s. Present membership comprises 493 cinematographers, 497 editors, 151 Production Designers and 119 Costume Designers and stands at 1260. 184 new members and estates joined in 2017.

The distribution of January 2018 resulted in payments totalling £500,000 to just one thousand members. Suzan Dormer has estimated an additional 3,644 people are on the database. Every one of 850 “missing” individuals listed on the www.screencraftrights. website is due over £150 payment upon registration. The cost is a one-off fee for £35. As a non-profit organisation SCR costs are the lowest of any comparable European organisation. The main distribution this year will be in the Autumn. Albeit the hunt for missing non-members and beneficiaries will continue.
Outstanding back payments over several years from Germany Austria and Norway have now been cleared and the administrative procedure will be relatively straightforward compared to the tangled web of screenings, documentaries, features, TV dramas, studio productions etc. The complexity of the task facing Suzan Dormer meant unravelling broadcasts transmission and timings of programmes across five nations, encompassing formulae involving points systems, length of screen time, genre of the work, and broadcast channels. The points system in Germany varies between 3 to 100, the guideline for differing payments to “authors”.

One reason for the establishment of Imago, the European Federation of Cinematographers, by the BSC, AIC, BVK and AFC some 27 years ago, was to fight for co-authorship rights for all cinematographers. Somewhat frustrated with EU promises to revise Copyright Laws Imago is currently investigating the possibility of co-operating with existing Collecting Societies to secure cinematographers’ international rights . Initial research has indicated substantial potential for cross border authorship remuneration not tied to EU membership. AGICOA an organisation working across borders collecting rights payments for producers has amassed half a billion Euros since its launch in 2000.

Money collected by National Collecting Societies destined legally for “foreign rights holders” is often never distributed to individuals because the rights holders are not correctly registered. The Norwegians alone estimate that 300,000 euros fails to be distributed because the registration system is not in order. The issue will be debated at the next IAGA of Imago in Serbia in 2019 when further first stage research will have concluded.

Nigel Walters BSC.

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