Understanding Statutory Educational Royalties in Australia

Australia takes a unique approach to the use of screen content by teachers and students, which recognises educators’ need to access screen productions for learning purposes while upholding the rights of content creators to be fairly remunerated for the use of their copyrighted programs. For screen content creators, this provides an incentive to continue to make programs that are valuable to educators and helps their businesses remain viable through secondary royalty payments – feeding into an ecosystem that keeps high quality educational content flowing back to schools and tertiary institutions.

Screenrights is the government-appointed, not-for-profit society responsible for administering the access scheme. We license educational institutions that use broadcast screen content via platforms such as ClickView, Informit’s EduTV and TV4Education. From the usage records provided by the resource centres, Screenrights identifies the programs accessed by teachers and students and distributes royalties to the appropriate rightsholders from the licence fee collections. Last financial year we distributed $38.6 million in Australian Educational royaties to our 5,150 members, with royalties payable depending on how much the programs were used by institutions. Schools’ usage records saw a huge increase in volume over the pandemic shutdowns, and it’s fantastic to know that screen content provided such a valuable tool for remote learning. Interestingly, we saw the higher volume of usage sustained and continue to grow even after in-person classes recommenced.

Currently Screenrights is working alongside other interested parties with the Attorney-General’s Department on the areas of copyright law that impact our members and stakeholders. We’re advocating to make sure the Screenrights educational licence continues to evolve in the changing broadcast landscape and remains valuable to the education and screen sectors in facilitating access to relevant screen content. Australia’s approach to this area of copyright has worked well for decades now, and it is in all parties’ interests to continue its support into the future.

As a screen content creator, it’s important to understand the rights that pertain to these secondary royalties. They are transferable in the contracts you sign, so make sure that you know what you’re signing over when you see terms like ‘Screenrights royalties’, ‘secondary royalties’ or ‘collecting society royalties’. If you have retained these rights, it’s free to sign up as a Screenrights member to register your programs and receive any applicable secondary royalty payments. These also include government royalties and retransmission royalties for content that has been broadcast on Australian free-to-air television stations. You can appoint an agent to look after these royalties for you, but rightsholders should note that if they appoint an agent to collect Screenrights royalties on their behalf the agent may charge an administrative or agent’s fee on top of Screenrights’ costs.

As a not-for-profit organisation that works to support a vibrant screen industry, Screenrights is always looking at other ways we can help. We now offer Collection Account Management services (including Disbursement Administration), a Residuals service, and a Cultural Fund that supports screen industry initiatives through an annual grant round. If your funding agreements require a Letter of Intent to engage a Disbursement service, you can generate one in under 2 minutes with our free online tool. And if you need a refresher on recoupment, our free webinar series is available on-demand for you to watch at your leisure. We’re always happy to answer any questions you may have about secondary royalties or our services.