SAG, Australian Actors Alliance Jointly Oppose U.S.-Australia Free Trade Pact

SAG, Australian Actors Alliance Jointly Oppose U.S.-Australia Free Trade Pact

Los Angeles (May 17, 2004) – Citing social and cultural concerns as well as artists’ rights, Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and Australia’s Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance, the two leading organizations representing working actors in the United States and Australia, today jointly called on the U.S. Congress and Australian Parliament to reject the recently negotiated U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement.

“The fight for free trade is premised on fair trade, and this agreement is unfair to performers,” said SAG senior advisor John McGuire. “Among its flaws, the agreement in its current form undermines both Australian culture and the rights of U.S. actors to fair and full compensation for their performances. We urged the U.S. Trade Representative to support America’s working actors by rejecting the ‘work-for-hire’ language contained in this agreement that will take rights and royalties away from U.S. artists and hand them over to producers. Unfortunately, the Administration failed to heed the call of U.S. performers to protect them from the forced forfeiture of their rights. The fact that Australian actors and American actors are standing shoulder to shoulder in opposition to this agreement is a powerful statement that the pact it is not yet ready for prime time.”

Specifically, the organizations charge that the pact does the following:

(1) “Unnecessarily restricts Australia's ability to formulate and adopt policies necessary to support social and cultural objectives on free-to-air multi-channeling, subscription television and new media and digital audiovisual services;”

(2) “Improperly requires recognition of the U.S. work-for-hire doctrine in Australia to the detriment of U.S. performers and their ability to share in royalties generated from the exploitation of their performances in Australia.

The two groups also agreed on principles that any final free trade agreement must include:

(1) “The right of performers to practice their craft in their country of origin and in doing so to give voice to their nation’s history and aspirations;”

(2) “Recognition of the important role that performers play in portraying a nation’s culture both within their country and to the world;”

(3) “The right of a nation to support and promote its own culture in all media and to enact legislation to carry out this goal, provided such legislation does not result in an unreasonable restriction on the free flow of media products from other countries;”

(4) “The right of all performers to protect their images, voices and likenesses and to share in the economic rewards from the distribution and exhibition of productions in which their performances have been captured.”