Are you on top of your royalties?
Equity Distribution Services (EDS) collect over £10 million each year in secondary payments that the union negotiates for performers who have been engaged on Equity contracts. EDS payments are additional to the millions of pounds of standard repeats and royalties arising out of union agreements which are handled and paid out by broadcasters and production companies.
As there is no single payment point for royalties, it can be confusing knowing when different types of royalties are due and who is responsible for passing them onto agents and performers. Our FAQ is designed to give performers the advice and information needed to ensure they are never out of pocket when it comes to royalties and secondary payments.
Equity’s Distributions Team deals with a range of royalties and other types of payments for feature films and certain television productions; programmes available online via BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All4 and Sky TV on demand; cable relays of BBC, ITV and Channel 4 programmes outside the UK; Radio 4Extra archive radio drama; and cast album recordings. These are contractual payments which are usually paid to the agency who represented you at the time of the job. To avoid delays in payments being passed on make sure we have the following details for you:
- Current contact details including email address for statements.
- Banking details for payments for self-represented work.
- VAT certificate or completed self-billingform if you're VAT-registered.
- Name of the agency currently representing you.
New details and updates should be confirmed in writing by email to email@example.com or to our postal address &mdash Equity Distributions, Guild House, Upper St Martin's Lane, London, WC2H 9EG.
Standard industry practice is to pay royalties to the agency who represented you when you did the job — even after you've left that agency and joined a new one. Broadcasters send repeat fees and royalties to the agency listed on your contract of engagement.
It's essential to ensure that all former agencies have your contact and banking details to pass on payments. Confirm your details, ideally by email, with the Accounts Departments of all former agencies you were signed with. Need help contacting a former agency? Let firstname.lastname@example.org know and we’ll assist with locating them.
Unfortunately, there’s no single payment point for all types and sources of secondary payments. Broadcasters and some larger production companies, as well as Equity, run their own in-house artist payment services.
If a former agent ceases trading, make sure the relevant departments of broadcasters, as well as Equity, have your contact and banking details in order for royalties to be paid to you directly.
Contact details for broadcasters can be found on our Enforcing secondary payments page.
I used to receive regular repeats for a programme I worked on but the payments have stopped. How can I find out if I am owed anything?
Royalties for most programmes and productions decrease over time, or eventually dry up, if they're no longer being broadcast or exploited as widely as they used to be. Some programmes, however, continue to earn royalties long after their original release date. The Avengers being one example of a television series still earning royalties 50 years after its first broadcast. Here's what to do to find out if royalties are still being generated for a previous job:
If your query is about payments you used to receive from British Equity Collecting Society (BECS) or from Equity, contact us to find out if we have all your necessary details to pass payments on and to check if anything is being held.
- If your query is about network repeats, transmissions on a digital channel or DVD sales, check with the agency who represented you for the job to ensure they have your current details. Most agencies and broadcasters pay performers by direct bank transfer only. It may simply be a case of supplying your banking details.
- If your agent is no longer trading or if you want confirmation of past payments for network repeats, digital channels or programme sales, requests for information on previous and outstanding royalty amounts can be sent directly to the original broadcaster. Contact details for broadcasters can be found on our Enforcing secondary payments page.
Featured artists engaged on Equity contracts are entitled to payments for programmes shown on secondary channels including, but not limited to, Drama, Dave, Gold, ITV3 and ITV4. A payment will usually become due once the programme has been sold on licence to one of the secondary channel. Once sold to a digital channel, the programme can be shown on the channel multiple times during the agreed licensing period, which varies but is usually for a period of two years.
One payment is therefore issued for a specific licensing period, as opposed to one payment per transmission on the digital channel. Standard practice is for the broadcaster or company currently holding the rights to the programme in question to issue the licensing period payment via the agent who represented you for the job. Featured artists share 17% of the sales price for the programme pro-rated according to their original engagement fee. Queries should therefore be addressed in the first instance to the relevant contractual agent or the original broadcaster that produced the programme. If this does not result in the query being resolved, Equity members can complete a Contract Enforcement Enquiry Form, which can be found in the Contract Enforcement page.
Contact details for broadcasters can be found on our Enforcing secondary payments page.
Walk-on and supporting artists are not due payments for usage on secondary channels.
Depending on the nature of the programme, you will be due an extract fee. Equity has negotiated a range of extract fees for when short clips of up to five minutes are incorporated into programmes such as dramas. Prior consent is not always required but will need to be sought in instances where the clip features sexual content or whereby the actor could face ridicule.
The use of extracts in compilation programmes are compensated for by way of a one-off payment, and the prior consent of the artists must be obtained. The clip/extract fee will be paid to the artist by the company that produced the original programme or the current rights-holder.
Extracts from BBC radio programmes in television programmes are also due a clip use fee, as are extracts from TV programmes used in radio programmes.
If you enter into a contract that signs away your rights ‘in perpetuity, the answer, sadly, is that no royalties will be due. The golden rule is always work on an Equity contract. It is the terms in Equity agreements with broadcasters and producers and Equity artist contracts that guarantee your entitlement to royalty provisions on your audio-visual work.
Equity members can ask for help and advice before signing on the dotted line if in any doubt about terms and clauses in any contract you are offered. Contact us if an Equity contract is not on offer and we will approach the makers of the programme in an attempt to resolve this. In terms of feature films, it used to be standard practice for performers to work on a buy-out in perpetuity basis in films. Equity fought hard to change this.
Since 2002, feature films, from independent low budget to big budget US studio films made in the UK, are produced under Equity’s cinema film agreement. This entitles performers who work on Equity contracts to a share of profits if the film makes a profit, or a share of gross receipts on bigger budget productions. Equity administers film royalties for, amongst others, Disney, MGM, NBC Universal, and Warner Brothers.
Equity is very conscious of the fact that some older film productions currently available to view, stream or download online were made before online services existed. As such, no royalty provisions are included in older contracts to cover online viewing and consumption of feature films. However, in Equity’s opinion this should not preclude performers from being compensated for these additional exploitations of their work.
This is why we have been actively pursuing claims on behalf of Equity-contracted performers in film productions made between 1981 and 2010 to convince producers that the artists are entitled to a share of online revenue receipts. After a series of tough negotiations and, after acquiring the necessary information to lodge claims, performer payments for online exploitations of older film productions will be coming on stream from several major studios. These will be administered by Equity's Distribution Team.
Equity set up British Equity Collecting Society (BECS) almost 20 years ago to ensure that performers in UK-made film and television productions receive a share of statutory rights revenues collected in other European countries.
More information about performers' rights, which are not linked to an artist's original contract of engagement, can be obtained on the BECS website.
If you have followed the advice outlined above but the agent who represented you and the broadcaster or production company who originally made the production have not been able to help, there is another step you can follow. Equity members can access the union's Contract Enforcement Service.
This service exists for members who believe they are owed royalties for a film or television production but no payments have been forthcoming. Members should go to the Contract Enforcement page. Here you can complete a Contract Enforcement Enquiry Form with details about the production. The Enquiry Form will be directed to the relevant specialist Equity Organiser in order to determine what secondary payments are due and, should anything be due, pursue payments on your behalf.
Please refer to our Enforcing secondary payments page for the names and details of organisations that pay out royalties and secondary payments to performers.