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Protecting Performers’ Rights Tops Agenda at Global Actors' FIA 2012 Conference

Non-union studio shoots like Peter Jackson's upcoming "The Hobbit" films are seen as moles in a wack-a-mole game that international guilds must band together to deal with.

TORONTO – Representatives of around 100 performs’ unions worldwide are meeting in Toronto over the next four days amid rising concerns over how to protect local performers’ rights as footloose studios increasingly go global in search of production incentives and non-union jurisdictions.

“If actors want fair remuneration, the only way to have that globally is to agree to protect each other’s backs,” Ferne Downey, national president of ACTRA, Canada’s actors union, said Thursday night in Toronto.

Downey was talking as the 20th World Congress of the International Federation of Actors got underway, with protecting performers’ rights in the New Zealand production of The Hobbit and the upcoming mini series Vikings, a Canada-Irish co-production, topping the agenda.

The FIA delegates are looking for solidarity and cooperation among global performers’ guilds to unionize large-budget studio films on the scale of Peter Jackson’s forthcoming J.R. Tolkien adaptations.

The risk is non-union shoots like The Hobbit films will become moles in a wack-a-mole game that the international group of actors' unions, including SAG-AFTRA, will increasingly need to deal with.

The goal, say FIA delegates, is creating a baseline of protection and compensation for actors internationally so jurisdictions cannot be played against one another to secure inward investment from the major studios.

Other talking points in Toronto this week include the impact of digital distribution on the intellectual property rights of performers, and local disputes like stopping the privatization of theatres in Turkey and starting up an actors’ union in South Africa.

Discussions and resolutions that come up this week in Toronto among FIA delegates will also touch on issues like copyright and secondary use rights in the age of the Internet and new media.

“The truth is the introduction of new media extends this notion of a borderless society,” said David White, national executive director of SAG-AFTRA.

The FIA 2012 conference runs to Sunday, when a new president of the global organization will be elected.