By Jonathan Widran
Securing and Distributing Royalties for Non-Featured Performers: On the main page of the website for AFM & SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund, a key question is asked (“Do we have royalties for you?”) followed by the non-profit organization’s mission statement: “Committed to the collection and distribution of equitable remuneration, and the advancement of Performance Rights for musicians and vocalists domestically and internationally.” Listed are the three main categories the organization works tirelessly to collect royalties for: Sound Recording (non-featured session musicians and background vocalists), Audiovisual (union Musicians and Vocalists on Motion Pictures and TV programs exhibited in Specific Foreign Markets) and Symphonic (symphony, opera and ballet musicians and vocalists). Unlike many other rights collectives, membership is not necessary. A claim is made for an eligible recording to a particular collective or set of collectives, research is performed to identify all performers on that recording(s), and a distribution occurs. With a staff of 50, the organization currently collects $45 million a year for performers.
History of the Merger and Changing Copyright Law: Initially formed by the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), the Fund is an independent entity whose purpose is to collect and distribute royalties from various foreign territories and royalties established by government statute under U.S. Copyright Law. The U.S. Copyright Act, which originally covered performance rights only for publishers and authors, had some very significant changes to the U.S. laws in the ’90s. Among these was the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA), which amended the original Copyright Act to provide performance royalties in digital media (subscription services, webcasting, home taping).
Actively Seeking Contact Info For Unclaimed Royalties: AFM & SAG-AFTRA maintains a list of individuals that have been credited for covered sound recordings but for whom they currently have no address/ contact information. These individuals may be entitled to a check. Those on the list at afmsagaftrafund.org/unclaimed-royalties.php can complete a Performer information form. There will also soon be a list called “No Credits Found” for those who have appeared on recordings but have not been properly credited.
For more information, visit afmsagaftrafund.org.