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ECSA's vision on how Europe can prevent buyout contracts

An insight into buyouts affecting audiovisual composers and actual solutions to prevent them

In Europe and all over the world, audiovisual composers and their organisations have launched awareness and education campaigns to stop buyout contracts, which deprive them from a fair and proportionate remuneration. ECSA fully supports those campaigns and pays tribute to all the composers standing against buyouts.

For the last 3 years, our Alliance also launched various initiatives to measure the impact of those practices, to study how they were implemented in Europe, and to propose solutions to prevent those contracts and their harmful effects. In a context where global Video on Demand (VOD) platforms are booming, our survey shows that:

  • 53% of our members have experienced buyout contracts.
  • 63% have experienced a growth of those contracts in the last three years
  • 66% of them have been offered contracts which forced them to sign away partial rights such as synchronisation or mechanical rights

A total “buyout” contract refers to a contract covering all services performed by an author, as well as future exploitations, in exchange for a single lump sum payment. Such a contract means that the author will receive no royalties in the future, regardless of the success of the work. In addition, the composer is often required to accept that his or her contribution will be qualified as a “work made for hire” (pursuant to the provisions of a non-EU law) and be subject to foreign non-European jurisdictions. If an author refuses or objects, this can have serious consequences on his/her professional opportunities and career.

The European Commission has recognised that those practices raise a challenge for creators, as they impose an extra-territorial application of foreign law in Europe, in contradiction with the 2019 Copyright Directive, as well as several national copyright laws. To prevent abusive buyout contracts, ECSA urges European and national policy makers to take the following actions:

  • As many EU Member States have not yet implemented the 2019 Copyright Directive, we urge them to implement Article 18 (Principle of appropriate and proportionate remuneration) in a mandatory manner and ensure it applies to all copyright contracts. France has adopted a similar approach by prohibiting contracts that could deprive screen composers from their right to a proportional remuneration, regardless of the applicable law of the contract
  • We also ask all EU Member States to implement Article 19, which requires authors’ contractual counterparts to provide transparent information regarding the exploitation and revenues generated by the works, in a comprehensive and ambitious manner.
  • We urge the European Commission to ensure that competition law does not prevent collective bargaining agreements between authors and their contractual counterparts. Such collective bargaining agreements could contribute to create fairer contractual terms and secure that royalty payments cannot be circumvented through contracts, including by the choice of laws in contracts.

Read our full paper to better understand buyout’s detrimental effects on composers’ livelihoods and why policy makers should prevent them to the benefit of all authors and the future generation of European creators.

Read our paper