Shocking Facts for Actors
An actor’s life is not all glamour. The irregular engagement patterns and long periods of unemployment in a tough and highly competitive environment are hindering factors when actors seek social protection. Social security systems are often ill-equipped to deal with freelance work resulting in most actors having limited, or no, social benefits.
Actors’ contracts are colloquially referred to as “buy-outs” with sweeping permissions for use of a performance, in all media, in perpetuity and across the entire universe in return for only an often-symbolic, upfront payment.
Audio performers have had additional remuneration rights for decades (since 1961). But for performers in audio visual works, it was not until 2012 that actors acquired any formal right to remuneration via the long overdue WIPO Beijing Treaty on the Protection of Audiovisual Performances. Although signed by 122 countries, the Treaty will not enter into force until 30 eligible parties ratify or accede to it. To date only 19 countries have ratified the Treaty.
The ability of actors to control the use of their image is limited. Commercials and merchandising might generate valuable income, to support the actor when they are not in work, but such image use is not available everywhere to be licensed for cash returns. Only about 22 states in the USA provide a right of publicity which potentially allows for the digital recreation of an actor as an avatar can be done without consultation or payment.
Only a handful of high-profile performers actually have enough leverage to negotiate adequate fees and use payments. As the Spinal Tap litigation illustrates, it may be challenging for actors to to enforce the terms of their contracts, and recover the compensation due them. Additional pay-outs will typically only be made once all “costs” have been recouped and, oddly enough, film seems to be one of the few industries in the world operating at a perpetual loss.
These elements combine as pressure NOT to challenge the norm for fear of being blacklisted and losing future job opportunities.
Under EU antitrust rules, actors may then find themselves classed as “undertakings” and therefore banned from negotiating acceptable minimum terms and conditions collectively.