• Do The Right Thing logo beside Director Roseanne Liang on location

Do The Right Thing: Copyright Campaign

Directors share in copyright with producers

Aim

DEGNZ seeks shared copyright with producers in audiovisual content and cinematographic film.

Motivation

DEGNZ has always sought copyright for directors. In 2019, the Government launched a review of the New Zealand Copyright Act. This is currently ongoing. To provide a focus for our efforts to win copyright, DEGNZ has launched the Do The Right Thing: Directors Share In Copyright With Producers Campaign.

Support the Campaign

To support the Do The Right Thing Campaign for director’s copyright you can:

  1. Educate yourself—read the booklets under Useful Links/Resources.
  2. Write a letter to a Minister or Party Spokesperson. To make it easy, you can use our template provided.
  3. Use the campaign hashtags on your social media posts:
    #dotherightthing #directorscopyright
  4. Write a personal submission on the Copyright Act Review to the Select Committee when a call for submissions is made. We will notify you when a call is made (most likely after the election) and provide a template for this.
Download DTRT Booklet

Download the Campaign Booklet
(PDF 533KB)

Background

International Law (UK, U.S., Aus., NZ, etc.) and European Law are fundamentally different when it comes to audiovisual work and cinematographic film.

International Law recognises copyright, which equates to ownership. European Law recognizes authorship, which equates to origin, acknowledging that more than one author can originate a work.

In New Zealand where International Law applies, the screenwriter is recognised as the copyright owner of the script because the screenwriter is recognised as the primary creator of it, even though others may have contributed creatively to the development of the work.

At a point in time, the screenwriter assigns the copyright to the producer in return for compensation. That compensation can be for as little or as much as the screenwriter is able to negotiate with the producer. It can be a lump sum buyout, a fee or a fee with negotiated secondary royalty rights, etc. The screenwriter determines their compensation for their work as the primary creator of the script, leveraging their ownership of the work in the negotiation, before ownership moves from him/her to the producer.

Just as a book in an adaption becomes the underlying work of the screenplay, for which the writer of a book negotiates their compensation as the primary creator of the book, so too does the screenplay become the underlying work of the audiovisual content or cinematographic film, which the screenwriter negotiates compensation for as the primary creator of the screenplay.

Directors are the primary creators of audiovisual content and cinematographic film. The director is the creative decision-maker in a process of artistic collaboration who takes final responsibility for the aesthetic cohesion and artistic integrity of the work.

One of the elements the director uses to create the final work is the underlying work of the screenplay. The other underlying elements include the acting, cinematography, the production design, the wardrobe and makeup, the editing, the musical score, the sound design, etc.

At no point, however, is the director’s ownership acknowledged for the new and complete work he/she has created. Under New Zealand’s Copyright Act 1994, even though the final work is the result of the aesthetic cohesion and artistic integrity of the director, the ownership of that work is vested 100 per cent in the producer as the person by whom the arrangements necessary for the making of the recording or film are undertaken.

Not only is this patently unfair, it is patently inaccurate.

The director is a creative author of the work, yet it is only the producer who receives copyright and therefore ownership of the work.

Without copyright, the director is not in the position of ownership that the screenwriter is in and for which he/she receives compensation for. The director cannot therefore leverage ownership to negotiate fair remuneration for the work he/she creates.

It is DEGNZ’s position that directors must rightfully share in copyright, and thus ownership, of audiovisual content and cinematographic film.

With copyright, directors can then negotiate economic rights with the producer before he/she assigns over the ownership that copyright confers.

DO THE RIGHT THING: Directors Shared Copyright with Producers

Last updated on 31 July 2020