That Old Chestnut Copyright

29 May 2015

As Dotcom seemingly inches closer to extradition, copyright has raised its head here at the guild enough times recently for me to decide to write about it.

And before your eyes glaze over at the thought of reading boring copy about copyright, I can assure you that there are a number of things in it for you as a guild member, one of which could well be money.

We have a staunch advocate for copyright on the guild board in Costa Botes. Costa is a documentary maker who often exerts copyright over his films and then has to defend himself against online trolls who attack him for seeking to monetize his creative output so that he can earn a living as a filmmaker. Costa is wont to remind me and the board on a semi-regular basis about the importance of copyright and the need to protect it.

What got me typing on the subject, however, were three different prompts. The first was a discussion I had with the Executive Director of the Australian Directors Guild (ADG) Kingston Anderson.

Kingston brought up the Australian Screen Directors Authorship Collection Society (ASDACS), which is a non-profit company that represents directors, both Australian and New Zealand – film, television and all audiovisual media directors of works in public release – in collecting the rights that arise from the success of their work around the world.

ASDACS, which is now administered by ADG, has relationships with collection societies and guilds in a number of countries that research and monitor the display of audio visual works.

If you are a member of ASDACS and you have works that are registered with it, ASDACS through its sister organisations collects the royalties and will disburse them to you. This income comes primarily from countries in Europe where the authorship of audio-visual works is vested in the director—not the case in Australia or New Zealand at this point. More shortly on this. As a member of DEGNZ, you are entitled to receive all the income due without incurring the across the board 10% fee on any income ASDACS charges non-members.

A number of New Zealand directors are already members of ASDACS. We encourage you to join and register your works. For more information, go to the ASDACS website here.

As you will have noted, authorship vested in the director is the trigger for the revenue generation. This brings me to the second prompt.

While filing papers at the office I came across an internal discussion document written in 2005 by former board member Grant Campbell advocating for a focused guild effort to effect two changes in New Zealand copyright legislation: The first in regard to Moral Rights, the second Authorship. DEGNZ has sought for years without success to have the legislation changed to better represent the rights of directors in regard to these two key issues—the legislation is potentially a can of worms that the government is very reluctant to open up.

It needs to be pointed out that our efforts are not intended to allow directors to keep copyright, as copyright and moral rights often need to be assigned to allow projects to be funded and distributed.

We continue to strive for these changes at the guild, and this brings me to my third prompt.

In recent times the Copyright Council has rebranded and become We Create.

DEGNZ is a member of We Create and I had the opportunity to attend the AGM for the first time and have a follow up meeting with two key members of the working group there.

The former Copyright Council fought from a defensive position around the protection of copyright for its members, which includes bodies that represent musicians, photographers, publishers, writers and those in film and TV including the NZ Writers Guild (NZWG) and the Screen Production and Development Association (SPADA).

We Create is operating under a new paradigm of promoting New Zealand’s creative sector and the economic impact that the sector delivers, and by so doing highlighting the importance of Intellectual Property.

As a conglomeration of entities that have a vested interest in copyright, We Create provides a more powerful channel for DEGNZ to work with to lobby central government on your behalf.

You can learn more about We Create here, about copyright, moral rights, and here an information sheet that highlights the current situation where authorship in audiovisual works in New Zealand is vested in producers, not directors. And if you are particularly interested you can review the NZ Copyright Act here, paying particular attention to Clause 5 on Authorship and Part 4 on Moral Rights.

I leave you with the words of one of New Zealand’s leading producers to ponder: At an industry gathering he said [paraphrasing] that as a producer you are creating a library of product to support you in retirement. At DEGNZ we look forward to the time when New Zealand directors have similar rights to grow old with.


Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

Last updated on 29 July 2020