Simon Lake, chief executive of copyright collection society Screenrights, is urging worldwide rights holders who have had material shown on free-to-air television in Australia since 2001 to contact Screenrights so they can tap into this revenue stream. Pay-TV operators have been required to pay royalties for carrying the five free-to-air channels since 2001.
Screenrights collected a record $36m (A$37.7m) on behalf of film, television and radio rights holders in 2006/07 and, for the first time, this included retransmission royalties. These royalties amounted to $13.4m (A$14.1m), although the bulk will be paid to the makers of long-running series and serials.
'So far we've paid retransmission royalties on 818 movies but, according to our data, there are 14,931 movies in total to be paid from March 2001 to June 30, 2007,' Lake told Screendaily.com.
The pay-TV operators pay 23 cents (A24 cents) per subscriber per month for the five free-to-air channels. Screenrights buys in broadcast data to determine how the money should be distributed.
Screenrights also collects from the more than 10,000 schools and universities that have a licence from Screenrights to copy legally. Because they prefer to show movies without commercials, however, feature films only earn about three per cent of all educational collections.
Podcast and vodcast royalties are also payable to Screenrights when educators copy programmes from the websites of broadcasters. However, no features are yet offered on these sites in Australia.
Screenrights represents about 2,800 producers, distributors, sales agents, broadcasters and rightsholders from all around the world. All members have to register each title in which they have rights in order to be paid.
About 68% of royalties go to owners of the film, 22% to the underlying literary or dramatic work, and the remainder to various rights within the soundtrack.