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Putting authors at the heart of the digital economy


- The Society of Audiovisual Authors (SAA) today published the 2nd edition of its White Paper on Audiovisual Authors Rights and Remuneration in Europe

Putting authors at the heart of the digital economy

The Society of Audiovisual Authors (SAA) today published the 2nd edition of its White Paper on Audiovisual Authors Rights and Remuneration in Europe. The first edition in 2011 saw the launch of our organisation on the European stage among representative organisations for European screenwriters and directors alongside FERA (Federation of European Film Directors) and FSE (Federation Screenwriters Europe), based on collective management of these authors’ rights.

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The SAA’s White Paper

In 2011, we presented for the first time the situation of film, TV and multimedia screenwriters and directors in Europe, their recognised intellectual property rights, their view as regards the production and exploitation of their works and their relationships with their partners, as well as the economic situation of their remuneration and industry challenges. We launched a debate about audiovisual authors’ remuneration and their ability to ensure that their rights are respected, and we established proposals to guarantee their involvement in the success of exploiting their works.

Why a 2nd edition in 2015?

First of all, because our sector is constantly changing, particularly with the increasing power of on-demand viewing. Also, because a new European Parliament was created last summer and a new European Commission took up its functions at the end of 2014. This renewal of the European political class forces us to once again explain who audiovisual authors are, how audiovisual works are created, financed, distributed, how the sector is structured, etc. This pedagogy is all the more necessary given that the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, included copyright among his areas for priority action and requested that Günther Oettinger, the Commissioner in charge of copyright, prepare a legislative proposal for the autumn. At the same time, the European Parliament has launched an own-initiative report assessing the European framework on the matter, entrusted to the most copyright-unfriendly MEP, German pirate Julia Reda.

Why is there such a buzz about copyright?

The new European Commission plans to build a digital single market for European consumers. This mission has been entrusted to Estonian Vice-President Andrus Ansip who will present his strategy in May. Since he took office, he has declared war on geo-blocking of audiovisual websites and has accused copyright territoriality of being the cause of the fragmentation of the European market. He has devoted his time to gathering cross-border access denials to audiovisual websites as evidence of discrimination against consumers from other countries. Copyright is thus perceived as a barrier that prevents the great European market from developing.

What does all this have to do with copyright?

Disregarding the Commission services’ expertise and the harmonisation procedure in place for 25 years in the field of copyright (11 directives), Jean-Claude Juncker and Andrus Ansip have thought up a slogan: copyright must be modernized, it’s fragmented and ill-suited. The problem is that the examples illustrated are often in relation to sports rights (which don’t include copyright) and trade strategies by operators that select the territories that they wish to cover and acquire licences as a result. While they don’t prove that copyright is responsible for criminal obstructions, they reverse the possibility for rights holders to offer operating licenses for their works on a territory by territory basis. This could threaten financing of works based on pre-sales of exploitation rights and on the distributors’ investment in promoting foreign films.

The true essence of copyright

Copyright is the moral link that connects the author to their work. It’s also their remuneration and creative financing tool. In a Europe of diverse cultures, traditions and languages, authors have fought to be able to express themselves in their own language, without being forced into exile in order to complete their projects. They scamper after public and private financing in order to produce their films and the remunerations from their copyrights are the best guarantee of their independence. They want their works to circulate but they don’t want them to be considered as loss leaders for internet platforms that are often more interested in consumers’ personal data. They envisage operators that would invest in the creation and display of European film and that would act as partners in the value chain.

Some advice for the Commission

Instead of imposing cross-border access to services, which will only serve to create chaos in organising licences and discourage already difficult to attract investors, the Commission should ask itself how it could help European filmmakers and their partners to better circulate their works in Europe and to reach an audience that’s already highly in demand by different forms of culture on offer. Copyright is a creative tool; it’s not for building a single digital market. Debate about copyright should focus on authors and on how to allow them to fully enjoy their rights. That is what is proposed by the 2nd edition of the SAA White Paper, supported by FERA and FSE.

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(Translated from French)

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