Can this be true? Actors’ Equity claims that Fairfax is asking actors to perform for free. Here’s the memo that went out to members.

Dear Equity Members

We have become aware that Fairfax media is seeking to engage actors to perform in reconstructions of major crime events over the past century for their websites including The Sydney Morning Herald website and The Age website.

The proposal is that performers would perform this work for free.

The following points should be noted:

  • Equity has minimum rates of pay and conditions, including restrictions on use and residual payments for performers working in internet productions;
  • Similar programs (ie crime reconstructions) are produced for television where performers do receive as a minimum Equity rates of pay and conditions;
  • Fairfax Media is a commercial operation with interests in print, radio and online and has a present total value of just under $2.4 billion;
  • Fairfax Media has reported underlying net profits of $157.6 million for the six months to December 31 2009.

The internet and other new media are at the forefront of where actors income and jobs will be generated into the future.

Performers should not accept that work on these productions should be done for anything other than commercial rates of pay.  If performers were to accept this the future of performers earnings will be significantly undermined.

Fairfax has argued that performers will benefit from the exposure of their work on the websites.  On this logic performers would agree to work on Underbelly for free as their work will be exposed on Channel 9.

It should also be noted that Fairfax will be using this content in an attempt to drive up usage of its websites and in turn to drive up the fees advertisers pay to advertise on its websites.  Performers are being asked to assist in this endeavour but are not being offered any money for the privilege.

Equity has reached agreements with producers for the use of content created for the internet.  The issues covered in these agreements include will use be restricted to one or nominated websites, will the content be available for free or will users be paying a subscription fee to access the content or a pay per use fee, what other media can the content be used on, how long can the content be used, is the content only streamed or downloadable, what technological arrangements are in place to attempt to prevent manipulation of the performer’s performance by the end user, what additional use fees will performers be paid if the content is used other than for its original purpose.  The agreements also cover the usual rates of pay and conditions of employment enjoyed by performers in other productions.

Performers are advised not to audition for or accept work on these productions without the benefit of an Equity negotiated agreement.  If offered work in this production please contact Equity as a matter of urgency.

Many thanks for your support.

Simon Whipp

National Director

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