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How the merger of two organisations will benefit artists

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Andrea Simpson

As The Copyright Agency and Viscopy announce a monumental amalgamation, ArtsHub examines the long-term advantages for members and artists.
How the merger of two organisations will benefit artists

Image cc Shutterstock.

It was announced late last week that Copyright Agency and Viscopy will formally merge on 30 November 2017.

After the completion of the advantageous five-year Services Agreement between Copyright Agency and Viscopy, there was an overwhelming vote of support for merger by members of both organisations at the most recent general meetings.

The merger will now take place by way of a Scheme of Arrangement (which requires approval by the Supreme Court, the corporate regulator ASIC and its members).

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The original Services Agreement between the two organisations was a Scheme of Arrangement approved by the Supreme Court and has been operational since 2 July 2012. The agreement has seen the day-to-day operations of Viscopy managed by the Copyright Agency.

The agreement yielded advantageous results for both organisational members with Copyright Agency exceeding expected outcomes in the five years the agreement has been in place.

Some of the outcomes the Copyright Agency delivered on was a membership growth of 33% by 30 June 2015 which exceeded the 20% projected. An incredible 63% growth was recorded for direct licensing revenue for Viscopy members – with a total of $1.1 million in direct licensing revenue for the 2017 financial year alone.

Tim Denny, Viscopy Chair, said before the vote for merger took place: ‘Since operating under the Services Agreement, licensing revenue to Viscopy’s visual artist members has increased by 10%.

‘The proposed merger is a very positive move which will deliver further benefits to our members and partners through reduced administration fees, more seamless operations and greater support for Australian creatives and culture. The Viscopy Board will be unanimously recommending to its members that they vote in favour of this positive step,’ he said.

Adam Suckling, Copyright Agency CEO, said,  'This is a significant moment in the history of these two organisations. Not only is it a positive move for members and the industry, it will help us drive efficiencies and ensure we can increase distributions to visual artists.'

Future benefits for current members

The Copyright Agency and Viscopy represent approximately 43,000 members, ranging from visual artists and illustrators to journalists, cartoonists, surveyors, educational authors and publishers.

Viscopy’s Australian and New Zealand visual arts members (approximately 13,000) will now automatically become members of Copyright Agency with the creation of a new class of membership, Visual Artist.

Those falling under the new memberships will elect a new Artist Director to the Copyright Agency Board. The Viscopy Board has nominated current Viscopy director Oliver Watts to be the first Artist Director on the Copyright Agency Board.

As outlined in the Scheme Booklet made available for members on the Viscopy website, members can look forward to a reduction in membership fees, continual licensing revenue growth and access to Copyright Agency's Cultural Fund for organisations that support visual artists.

(Recent recipients of Cultural Fund grants have included Artspace, National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Guildhouse, Bus Projects, Craft ACT: Craft + Design Centre, Australian Network for Art & Technology, National Association for the Visual Arts and Victorian College of the Arts.)

Kim Williams, Chair of the Copyright Agency, said: 'The rights to fair payment for the work of visual artists and all creatives are under challenge as never before so it’s vitally important their voice is given due prominence in the copyright debate. We will ensure this, as well as delivering more revenue to Australian and New Zealand artists through consolidation of operations and reduced costs.'

Further advocacy for Copyright laws

As part of the Services Agreement Copyright Agency undertook an independent study: Voice of the Artist project. The three-part project was actioned to explore the impacts of the online environment on visual artists.

Such projects illuminate the impact of copyright infringement due to digital technology – exploring the perception of artists’ rights in a digital economy. The project results showed 90% of artists have had their artwork reproduced with only 21% of artists asking for payment when their work is reproduced.

Other results reflected that 38% of artists do not manage their copyright in anyway and that 57% of visual artists are not aware of any copyright infringements of their work.

It was found that more education and awareness about the US model of Fair Use and its potential impact on Australian and New Zealand creators is required.

'The  Copyright Agency will continue to champion visual artists at a time when creators’ rights have been  threatened by ill-considered proposals to change the Copyright Act, undermining the framework that ensures artists and creators continue to control the rights of their work and receive fair payment for its use,' said Suckling.

Denny conveyed his confidence in the merger to Viscopy members. 'We believe Viscopy and the Copyright Agency are fortunate to have found a strong partner in each other; and Viscopy members have benefited from the strong relationship we have built over the last five years. Here exists between the two organisations a strong foundation of trust and culture.'

About the author

Andrea Simpson is an ArtsHub staff writer.

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