It’s rare that I raise the same issue two weeks in a row. But the contracts that online platforms are seeking to put in place—or are with those who either don’t know what they’re signing or don’t care—are so unfair that that the guilds are extremely concerned.
There are four key issues at stake:
2. Intellectual property rights
3. Editorial Control
4. Sustainable work
Content creators are being asked to deliver high-quality scripted content that will bring eyeballs to screens and deliver revenue, directly or indirectly. The compensation being offered to do this is pitiful for the work required. With appropriate levels of compensation not being the ‘give’ that the platforms are offering for the ‘get’, you would expect that they would be fair and reasonable when it came to terms and conditions for the content. But they are not.
The most draconian of the contracts that the guilds have seen are asking for all rights for ever and a day from those coming in with developed ideas.
Then there are the incidences where creators are being employed for poor levels of pay to generate and develop content ideas that they have no rights in.
And when passionate content creators are asked to produce their own ideas under contracts for little money without the editorial freedom that stimulated many of them into getting into online content in the first place, they feel exploited. And it’s hard not to agree with their viewpoint.
A classic cry from the platforms is that they are offering content creators a space on the internet that can put their content in front of a lot of eyeballs with marketing backup. Another is that in this new world of content creation you can’t expect to get paid well for the work you do in the manner that you may have been in the past. And another is the ‘talent development opportunity’ and ‘talent exposure’ that they are giving you. Yet in this new world of content creation they are employing old world contracting norms that don’t allow content creators to fairly benefit from their endeavours, and to build sustainable careers.
I repeat what I said at our Screenlink evening on Lo-budget Content Making this week—Do NOT sign a contract with an online platform without showing it to a guild or entertainment lawyer. You are doing yourself, your colleagues and your industry a disservice if you do.