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New education site explains royalties & copyright buyouts

Media Published Friday 19 February 2021
Finding the best digital distributor to use for your music can be overwhelming – take the time to consider each one and how they can best work for you.

A new online resource has been created to keep creators up to date with the growing practice of copyright buyouts.

Your Music Your Future International originated as part of an education campaign in the US in 2019, but has now been extended globally.

The website covers topics like 'what are total buyouts', royalties v lump sums, & laws surrounding buyouts in different regions or territories.

An education campaign created in the United States to inform creators on the growing practice of copyright buyouts is being extended globally with a new online resource, Your Music Your Future International.

Composers and songwriters for film, television and other audiovisual media have depended for more than a century on a ‘typical deal’ which allows them to collect royalty income in exchange for granting their copyrights to broadcasters, digital streaming services and other users of their works.

Across the globe, that 100-year precedent is increasingly being challenged by companies who insist that composers accept buyouts of their rights (including performing rights) as a condition of being employed or commissioned for a project. In this scenario, composers are expected to create music in exchange for a one-time fee instead of receiving continuing income for their work.

The works of songwriters and composers are an invaluable and inextricable part of the storytelling in film, TV and all other audiovisual media. Traditionally, royalty income has been the only dependable source of earnings for these creators. The growing practice of buying out their rights (including performing rights) changes the remuneration equation with important implications for creators’ careers.

To raise awareness of this global issue for creators, a new international education resource is now being made available, bringing together the US music creators’ movement Your Music Your Future and CISAC, the global confederation of authors societies with 230 members in over 120 countries and territories.

Your Music Your Future was founded by composers, for composers in the US in 2019. It’s dedicated to educating fellow creators about their options for compensation and the ramifications of their choices, including accepting total buyouts of their work. The campaign is strictly educational, taking no sides in the debate, and has built a community of more than 15,000 members.

With the help of CISAC, the campaign is now being extended to help educate composers and songwriters across the world. A new website, Your Music Your Future International, covers topics including the options of royalties vs buyouts, the typical use of buyout clauses in contracts and the different laws governing buyouts internationally. The initiative is also supported by CIAM, the International Council of Music Creators.

“In the post-Covid world, the issue of copyright buyouts matters more to creators than ever before. Artists, composers and authors have to be aware of their rights, understand their options and make informed choices on the way they are paid. Their future livelihoods depend on it”, said CISAC President, Abba co-founder, Björn Ulvaeus.

“With the onslaught of digital media, now, more than ever screen composers all over the world must make sustainable career choices and retain their rights. The terminology around buyouts and composer agreements can often be convoluted and unclear. To have a global educational site available will be a godsend for all composers, to help us advocate for each other, and build a stronger more connected industry”, said APRA Screen Award winning composer, Caitlin Yeo.

“The historical acknowledgment that artists simply do not just generate work, but create intellectual property, has been universally recognized for hundreds of years. Composers must fully understand that their creations are worth more than simply billing time for work done.

If composers are willing to work with companies that demand buyouts, they should be fully cognisant that this comes at a cost and should be factored in to all negotiations. This site is an excellent resource to better understand those inherent rights”, said Australian Guild of Screen Composers President, and composer, Antony Partos.

CISAC Director-General Gadi Oron said: “Copyright buyouts are a growing concern for creators and for CISAC societies which represent them and protect their interests. By partnering with Your Music Your Future, CISAC helps fill the information gap and provide a practical and useful educational resource about buy-out contracts and creators remuneration. This should assist creators in making an informed decision about contracts they’re offered and their options”.

Key topics on the website include:

  • What are total buyouts?
  • Why buyouts are becoming more prevalent
  • How “buyout clauses” work in contracts
  • Royalties vs lump sum: weighing up the options
  • Varying laws surrounding total buyouts in different regions and territories
  • How creators can raise awareness for greater legal protection of their works