Section 481 tax credit must be amended to protect actors’ rights, says Irish Equity

Oireachtas committee hears actors on Irish productions lose out financially over failure to specify adherence to copyright law

Actors on Irish film and television productions are losing out financially because the production companies that benefit from the section 481 tax credit do not have to agree to comply with copyright legislation before they receive the incentive, an Oireachtas committee heard on Wednesday.

Irish Equity president Gerry O’Brien said the actors’ union was concerned that performers on Irish-based productions were being contracted “on lesser terms and conditions than their international colleagues”.

The section 481 tax credit for the film and television sector must be amended so that the rights of performers are not contractually overridden, he told the Committee on Budgetary Oversight.

The most significant intellectual property (IP) right for actors under European copyright law is the right to appropriate and proportionate remuneration for the ongoing financial exploitation of their performance, he said.

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This right means that a small percentage of the worldwide revenue streams created by the ongoing sale of the production should find its way back to the performer.

“Although productions must sign a statement to the effect that they will comply with relevant employment legislation to secure section 481 investment, the Copyright and Related Acts 2000 and the European copyright directive are not specifically listed,” Mr O’Brien said.

If they were, it would give performers “some protection” in the negotiating process.

Asked by Sinn Féin TD Mairéad Farrell if the State was failing in its obligations to protect the IP rights of all parties involved in bringing film and television to the screen, Mr O’Brien replied: “Short answer, yes.”

The committee earlier heard from the Irish Film Workers Association (IFWA), which said recipients of the section 481 tax credit were not meeting the “industry development test”, a condition of receiving the incentive that says they should provide quality employment and training opportunities.

“The objectives as set out are no longer being met as we understand it,” said IFWA representative John Arkins.

Section 481 has become “a handout”, he said, adding that there were “fundamental governance issues to be addressed”. The film industry is defined by casual “as-and-when” jobs and a lack of financial transparency, the IFWA told the committee.

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics