|Major channel SBS broadcasted a "rerun" of the popular drama "The Heirs (2013)" on its YouTube channel. Screen capture from YouTube account of "SBS Catch"|
By Dong Sun-hwa, Lee Gyu-lee
The Korea Broadcasting Actors Union (KBAU), the labor union of about 5,000 actors, comedians, and broadcasters, has been striving to claim the entertainers' rights since the union's establishment in 1988. Appearance fees are one of the most crucial issues it deals with.
As the digital content market rapidly expands, the union has turned its focus to compensation from YouTube.
"Actors deserve appearance fees on YouTube, even for the 'edited' clips," Song Chang-gon, KBAU's director of external relations, told The Korea Times.
Korean broadcasters have been "rerunning" condensed versions of TV programs on their channels, earning advertising revenue. Many videos have garnered more than a million views, largely thanks to cast members' popularity. But the members have not received compensations ― in fact, Korea does not have an official guideline regarding appearance fees for such clips.
The union has been unaware of the non-payment too, according to Song. But it will take tangible action from now on.
"After having a meeting with the Korea Broadcasting Performers' Rights Association (KoBPRA), we would together bring the issue to the broadcasters," Song said. "Our goal is to add a contract term regarding the appearance on YouTube clips."
KoBPRA is the organization of entertainers that aims to reserve copyright-related rights. The issue of YouTube compensation also falls into its area.
Song added, "We have not yet confirmed how much to demand, but we will fight for our rights regardless of the amount."
He said the union could not finalize the amount without knowing the exact revenue the broadcasters make from YouTube. But the union will try to work out an estimate.
For TV, three major broadcasters ― KBS, MBC, and SBS ― can pay the cast up to 400,000 won ($336) for a rerun, according to the association.
The YouTube payment issue has also been brought up globally. More TV shows have started to air on streaming platforms such as Netflix and Hulu. As a result, the appearance fee for streaming, or "streaming residuals" has recently drawn actors' attention.
The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists United States (SAG-AFTRA) has been striving to extend contract terms to include streaming residuals.
Nonetheless, the fee regarding the edited YouTube clips still needs to be resolved in the U.S. too.
"The issue on YouTube clips has been discussed among the related parties," a spokesperson for cable channel tvN told The Korea Times. "But it is not yet stated in the contract. The industry as a whole will attempt to reach an agreement."
When The Korea Times asked the agencies of a prominent actor about the issue, the spokespeople declined to provide details.
A source merely said, "The appearance fee is a sensitive problem and I am not in the position to speak about it. But I will try bringing it up for discussion with other officials."
Song said the agencies were cautious because they were afraid of possible "retaliation" from broadcasters.
"An agency represents dozens of actors. If it raises an issue about the fee, the 'angry' networks could treat others unfavorably," Song said.