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.