9 Dec 2015

FERA, FSE and SAA welcome the European Commission’s commitment to go beyond political declarations and take action on authors’ remuneration. Urgent action is needed to ensure creativity and authors’ rights are rewarded in financial terms and worth something online.

In addition to action on authors’ remuneration, the Commission’s communication Towards a modern, more European copyright framework rightly identifies other areas where it can make a difference:

– Effective enforcement: tackling commercial-scale piracy, which discourages new businesses based on the online exploitation of protected works that are essential to the development of the European online content market;

– Fostering accessibility, availability and circulation of European works through a range of measures using the review of the Satellite and Cable Directive, the Creative Europe programme and, although not mentioned in the Communication, the Audiovisual Media Services Directive review.

Furthermore, the Commission’s communication shows that copyright and authors’ rights are certainly not broken but can be adapted in specific areas to cope with the challenges of the online environment. FERA, FSE and SAA welcome the fact that the Commission does not directly question the territoriality principle and recognizes the flexibility of copyright and authors’ rights to adapt to any market structure and business model, whether territorial or pan-European.

However, some measures could still inadvertently question the territoriality principle and need to be reconsidered. While we can support portability of subscription-based online content services, poor drafting that would not limit the portability in time could allow cross-border access through the back door. The same applies to a unified copyright title, considered as the long-term goal by the Commission, and any review of the Satellite and Cable Directive that seeks to extend the country of origin mechanism of direct satellite broadcasting to online transmissions.

In addition, cross-border access still seems to be mistaken for the silver bullet to enhance accessibility of European works. While FERA, FSE and SAA support the objective of improved circulation of European works, we consider that only active promotion which brings European works to European citizens’ direct environment will make a difference in a highly competitive market dominated by Hollywood productions.

Finally, we are surprised by the inclusion of private copying levies in the communication and the negative approach.  This sits in stark contrast to the European Parliament’s 2014 resolution which underlined the continued relevance of the system to the digital age and its importance to Europe’s creators.  It also seems to contradict the Commission’s insistence that authors’ remuneration is one of its priorities. The levy system is a virtuous cycle, which provides freedom to copy for consumers, a contribution from manufacturers and importers who sell copy-making devices and fair compensation for creators.

Quotes

Barbara Hayes, Chair of the SAA board of directors said: “Action on authors’ remuneration is very much linked to the fostering of a sustainable online marketplace for European works by enabling screenwriters and directors to receive continued royalties for previous works while working on the development of future projects.”

Cécile Despringre, Executive Director of the SAA added: “We do not understand the Commission’s long-term vision of a unified copyright title as if it was in its DNA to harmonise everything. This simplistic and bureaucratic vision is in clear contradiction with the EU’s political motto “United in diversity” which acknowledges exactly what the EU is about.”

Pauline Durand-Vialle, CEO of FERA said: “Any actual improvement of authors’ remuneration will require a thorough approach by the Commission based on improved contractual practices as well as increased collective bargaining and collective management of rights”

Background

Following the Digital Single Market communication of May 2015, The Copyright communication sets the plan for the modernization of EU copyright rules. It includes among the set of proposals to be prepared in 2016 EU solutions to ensure authors receive fair remuneration for the use of their works, following further in depth discussion on the most appropriate mechanisms. In March 2015, SAA published the 2ndedition of its white paper on Audiovisual Authors’ Rights and Remuneration in Europe which supports the development of a collectively managed, unwaivable remuneration right.

Cultural and creative sectors are very competitive market for authors who struggle to make a living out of their art. According to an ALCS study, 40% of professional authors were living on their writing in 2005 in the UK. By 2013 this figure was only 11.5% and income had dropped by 29%. According to an FSE survey, the annual median income of screenwriters was just €22,000 in 2012. The collections of SAA’s members in 2013, while not representing all payments due to authors, represented just 0.37% of Europe’s audiovisual industry revenues.  Authors need to be able to rely on the revenues from the exploitation of their works to continue to create independently and fund the development of future projects.

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In September 2015, the Federation of Screenwriters in Europe (FSE) and FERA have also put together a document to affirm the many assertions by the European Parliament and the Commission that creators’ remuneration needs to be guaranteed, and to make specific proposals for changes that would be of real practical benefit to European creators, particularly for audiovisual authors, screenwriters and directors : Authors’ remuneration: A Problem at the Heart of Copyright