Can Europe help authors seize the digital revolution?
14/07/2011 - This week had a bus stop feeling to it, you wait for one for ages and then two come along at the same time. Such it was this week for European institution interest in the audiovisual sector. Not only did the European Parliament hold a hearing on the future of audiovisual in the digital era following the drafting of the first European Parliament report on audiovisual for ten years - “European cinema in the digital era” (see Piotr Borys’ editorial), but the European Commission also presented its Green Paper consultation on “Online Distribution of Audiovisual Works”.
First of all, for the Parliament hearing, it seems a shame that authors were not invited as panellists at a discussion on the future of audiovisual policy. Our sector depends on a number of actors to be successful but the creators should surely be involved in the debates on the future of their industry, in particular when it comes to addressing copyright issues. The hearing highlighted the significant challenges facing the European audiovisual sector. As the chairwoman of the culture committee, Mrs Pack MEP, concluded, there are more questions than answers.
The report by Mr Borys MEP was presented after the hearing. It represents a solid grounding of many of the technical issues facing the sector and Europe in the digital age if European creators are to be able to continue producing the vibrant and diverse cinema they are famous for. One possible addition should be on the rights and remuneration of audiovisual authors and linking them to the success of their works – a subject that brings me nicely to the second big audiovisual publication of the day – the European Commission’s Green Paper.
The European Commission had already confirmed the inclusion of authors’ remuneration in the Green Paper text with the IPR Strategy communication on 24th May. I think I can speak for all audiovisual actors when I say that we are obviously very happy to see our sector being examined in isolation here. Hopefully this will avoid a repeat of the disappointing orphan works Directive proposal which tries to shoe-horn audiovisual into a predominantly book focussed paper. The questions (and there are many) raised by the Green Paper are all valid and such an open consultation is necessary to establish an approach to the future of the digital audiovisual market that is both practically and legally viable. On the point of linking audiovisual authors to the successes of their works, SAA obviously feels that its White Paper on the same subject (launched earlier this year - download it here) represents a possible solution.
The remuneration of creators has been mentioned numerous times at recent European Parliament hearings on the issue of copyright. Unfortunately this has often been as part of a polarised debate whereby the middlemen of the creative industries are perceived in a very negative light. The strength of Europe’s audiovisual sector (and maybe all of our creative sectors) is down to the chain of production – our authors have developed and rely on good creative partnerships with their producers, who in turn entrust the international sales of their works to distributors who understand the local markets and can guarantee the best return. This dynamic fabric, made up almost entirely from SMEs, drives the financing of Europe’s creation.
We want increased remuneration for our authors but need to achieve that with the whole sector. That is why, since the launch of the SAA White Paper we have started meeting other partners in the sector that we share responsibility for. I hope that we can work out a way, together, to seize the legislative opportunities proposed by these different initiatives and make it possible for all of us to get the most out of the digital era.
Cécile Despringre is the Executive Director of Brussels-based Society of Audiovisual Authors