Actors to submit petition at Dáil tomorrow calling for an end to film industry exploitation

A petition calling for the recommendations of an Oireachtas report on the operation of the Section 481 tax credit for film makers will be handed to the Government at Leinster House tomorrow.

Irish Equity president, Gerry O’Brien, will submit the petition signed by 3,700 actors in Ireland, the UK, Europe and the US, including a number of Oscar nominees and other award winners at 10.30 a.m. on Tuesday, 3rd October.

The recommendations of the Committee on Budgetary Oversight ‘Report on Section 481 – Film Tax Credit’, were published in May 2023. They propose that Irish performers will not be subject to lesser terms and conditions regarding their intellectual property rights than international performers in similar roles when employed on the same project receiving Section 481 funding. 

The Committee recommended that compliance with the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000, as well as the EU Copyright Directive should be a specified requirement in order to avail of the Section 481 credit. 

The Committee committed to writing to the EU commission requesting an examination of the use of ‘buy-out’ contracts in the Irish film production sector as a standard practice as it represents a breach of the rights of performers and artists under the EU copyright directive.

The petition, which is supported by British Equity, the International Federation of Actors (FIA) and US trade union SAG/AFRA, has been signed by actors, Cillian Murphy, Ruth Negga, Colin Farrell, Siobhán McSweeney, David Morrissey, Jonathan Frakes, Jeri Ryan and Adrian Dunbar, among many more.

Gerry O’Brien said: “For decades, Irish actors living in Ireland have been offered contracts by Irish production companies with lesser terms and conditions than those offered to their international colleagues working on the same productions. These contracts have ignored the protections offered to Irish actors by national and international copyright law, denying them access to potential future earnings. 

“These practices are unacceptable, particularly when these productions are financed by the public through Screen Ireland, the Section 481 tax credit, the licence fee and more. This petition and its signatories are evidence that this is more than a domestic issue. The eyes of the international audio-visual sector are on Ireland. Irish actors are part of an international community that has no desire to see their hard won rights undermined by these kinds of practices.”

Irish Equity solidarity rally

Irish Equity members held a solidarity rally on Saturday 19th August in support of the SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild of America strike, it took place at the Wolfe Tone monument on St. Stephen’s Green.

Irish Equity stands in solidarity with SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guild of America

Dear Members 

Please be advised that Irish Equity stands in solidarity with both SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guild of America.

We believe that, collectively, we have reached a pivotal juncture within the industry worldwide where we must collectively ensure that all Crew, Performers, Writers, and Composers, are truly valued and actually share in the success of the Industry. 

This can only be achieved, we believe, by quality agreements, quality jobs, full compliance with legislation and full transparency and accountability within the Industry.

We say clearly to the AMPTP and their members that they need to move significantly and swiftly to meet the reasonable aspirations of SAG AFTRA’s members.  The members in Irish Equity and Film & Entertainment, and all entertainment Unions across the globe, create the vast wealth within our industry. Therefore, it is both right and just that they have decent pay and conditions and full adherence to legislation.

Please be advised that whilst Irish Equity stands in total solidarity with our brothers and sisters, we cannot actively participate in their industrial action due to legal constraints. Please note that we are currently not in a dispute situation. 

We will of course keep you updated. 

Michelle Quinn
Sector Organiser
Irish Equity

Gerry O’Brien
Irish Equity

Irish Equity says Ryan Tubridy payments highlight wider transparency issues in RTÉ

The Executive of Irish Equity has expressed deep concern at the undisclosed payments to broadcaster Ryan Tubridy saying that it highlights wider issues surrounding the transparency of governance and operations in RTÉ.

Irish Equity Organiser, Michelle Quinn, said: “The Executive of Irish Equity has stated that it is deeply concerned at the failure of RTÉ to disclose payments made to Ryan Tubridy. 

“It has said that what has transpired is totally unacceptable and it is yet another breach of trust with the general public by the national broadcaster.”

She added: “The Executive further stated that the general lack of transparency within RTÉ also impacts members of Irish Equity in a variety of ways. It hampers good faith negotiations and calls into question the integrity of the institution. The Executive also expressed its solidarity with their colleagues in the RTÉ Trade Union Group.”

Irish Equity welcomes Oireachtas Committee recommendations on Film Tax Credit 

Irish Equity has called for the full implementation of the recommendations contained in a report issued this week by the Oireachtas Committee on Budgetary Oversight concerning the operation of the Section 481-Film Tax Credit, saying they will benefit workers and tax payers.

Irish Equity President, Gerry O’Brien, said: “The report is extremely fair in examining not just the benefits of the film industry to Ireland but also recognising and addressing some of the inequities that exist within it. From our point of view, the implementation of the recommendations surrounding full compliance with the Copyright and Related Act 2000 and the EU Copyright Directive will have a hugely beneficial effect on the lives of all our extremely talented creative workers. 

“More importantly, it will protect the investment of the most important stakeholder in our film and television industry, the public. Implementing these recommendations will ensure that we are investing in sustainable careers for all those young people who are beginning their training and looking forward to contributing to our valued creative reputation on the world stage.”

He added: “We fully support all the recommendations contained in the report. The recommended increase in funding for the industry must come hand in hand with full compliance with all legislation that protects the rights of film workers, cast and crew.”


Irish Equity calls for EU protections of intellectual property rights for artists in Ireland 

Irish Equity has called for the complete extension to Ireland of EU protections for intellectual property rights for performers in order to end practices which are denying these workers ongoing earnings from their work.

Irish Equity President, Gerry O’Brien, said: “At the recent Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Irish Equity, which took place on 2nd April, two motions were passed relating to copyright in the audio visual industry.

“The motions mandate the Equity executive to call on the Government to do two things. Firstly, to complete the transposition of EU Directive 2019/790 on Copyright in the Digital Single Market into Irish law. Secondly, the Government must include the Copyright Act and this EU Directive in the list of mandatory requirements for applications for the Section 481 tax credit, which seeks to incentivise film and TV production in Ireland, and for all public funding in the audio-visual industry.

“The purpose of the EU Directive is to address ‘the weaker contractual position when authors and performers grant a licence or transfer their rights’. Under the EU Directive, ‘buyout contracts’ are acknowledged as an exception rather than the rule, but for over 30 years Irish performers have been given little choice but to sign these contracts.

“This means Irish performers have not received their rightful residual payments for their work. It also means that there is a wealth of their intellectual property, that still has financial value, tied up in the back catalogues of producers and broadcasters. The EU Directive includes articles that will ensure that performers receive ongoing payments for the use of those works.

“The Irish Equity position on this issue has been supported by the International Federation of Actors (FIA) in a letter in which it states that the provisions of this Directive have not been taken seriously by several EU states, including Ireland.”

He added: “As part of the application for funding under Section 481, producers must sign an undertaking that they will comply with all relevant employment legislation but there is no mention of the Copyright Act. This Act is separate from employment law. It deals with the performers intellectual property rights and materially affects performers’ ability to create a sustainable career. We recommend that compliance with copyright legislation be a listed and mandatory requirement when applying for direct funding and for Section 481 support.”

The Irish Equity AGM also passed motions calling for the minimum rate for live theatre performance to be set at €600 per week and for a restructuring of the union’s theatre agreement to bring it up to date with the hybrid nature of the exploitation of live performance on digital platforms.

Irish Equity and MUI welcome grant awards through the Basic Income for the Arts Pilot Scheme

Irish Equity and the Musicians Union of Ireland (MUI) have welcomed the awarding of 2,000 grants for artists and creative arts workers through the new Basic Income for the Arts Pilot Scheme, which were announced today (Thursday, 8th September).

Irish Equity and MUI Organiser, Michelle Quinn, said: “Our members welcome the announcement by the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and the Media, Catherine Martin, that 2,000 successful candidates have been chosen for the Basic Income for the Arts Pilot Scheme. We sincerely hope that it makes a real difference to the quality of life of the successful recipients.

“However, we are also mindful that the 6,200 people who were eligible for inclusion in the random draw for these grants, who were unsuccessful, must be disappointed. We will monitor the development of the scheme and will flag any issues that arise with the Department.”

She added: “We are mindful that the pilot scheme is a significant change to the way Ireland recognises and supports artists. It is our hope that it will be successful and that ultimately it will be developed in a manner that ensures all artists will receive financial support.”

President of Irish Equity, Gerry O’Brien, said: “Ireland could lead the way on a new model to support all people active in the sector. We would be fully supportive of such an initiative and we would urge the Minister to give favourable consideration to it. We also need to ensure that artists living with a disability do not lose any existing benefits as a result of their inclusion in the scheme or any future initiatives.”

Unions say artists basic income scheme a positive development but more clarity needed

Unions representing performance workers, SIPTU, Irish Equity and the MUI, have welcomed the announcement today (Tuesday, 5th April) of a Basic Income for the Arts pilot scheme which will provide a security of income for three years for up to 2,000 participants. 

The scheme announced by Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin, will provide for a weekly payment of €325 to successful applicants in order to support practicing artists and creative arts workers. 

[Read more…]

Irish Equity AGM 2022

Irish Equity backs call for collective bargaining legislation at SIPTU conference

Irish Equity has expressed its support for motions passed at the SIPTU Biennial Delegate Conference in Sligo which call for legislation to secure collective bargaining rights for workers in Ireland in line with those available in the rest of the EU.

Irish Equity President, Gerry O’Brien, said: “Ireland remains an outlier among western European countries when it comes to collective bargaining coverage. Nowhere is the impact of this more evident than in the heavily state subsidised audio visual industry in Ireland. This has undermined attempts to successfully engage with employers in this sector due to the dominant position that producers and broadcasters find themselves in relation to performers in the Republic. 

“This has resulted in many high budget co-productions shot in Ireland availing of taxpayer support through various Government and local grants, engaging indigenous performers on inferior terms and conditions to those of visiting performers.

“This has created an unacceptable inequity in how we value our talent compared to visiting performers, whose payment is also deemed part of the eligible spend in Ireland of a production. This means that taxpayers in Ireland are supporting productions where international performers are on superior terms and conditions to their colleagues based in Ireland. A collectively bargained agreement cannot allow for such inequity to exist.

“Performers are protected by the Copyright and Related Act Ireland 2000 which provides them with certain rights, including a right to equitable remuneration for the exploitation of their work. The value of this participation can only be achieved through good faith negotiations. This is what allows performers in film and television productions to receive what are called residual payments for the ongoing use of their recorded work. 

“The European Copyright Directive further protects the right of performers to residual payments and requires that all contracts allow them to participate in the financial success of a production in an appropriate, equitable and proportionate manner.”

He added: “Irish Equity is working with Equity UK (NI) in order to ensure performers, North and South, are valued equally. Both unions, working together, are committed to equality for all performers on the island of Ireland.”