Industry Report: Copyright and legal issue of the audiovisual sector
Interview with María Iglesias • KEA European Affairs
by Sara Petti
- A new report on contractual arrangements applicable to creators has been developed by CRIDS (University of Namur) and KEA for the European Parliament. The study deals with some important issues that have an impact on the copyright framework, such as digital exploitation, fair remuneration for creators and the transfer of rights for audiovisual works. Cineuropa met up with María Iglesias, one of the authors of the study, from KEA European Affairs, in order to discuss her findings.
Cineuropa: Can you briefly tell us about the study?
María Iglesias: The study was commissioned by the European Parliament because of a growing concern about the role of creators, perceived as being in a weaker bargaining position compared with the other actors of the industry. The objective was to identify the provisions intended to protect authors and to assess their effectiveness. The research focused on copyright and contract law provisions in eight Member States. In certain countries such as Sweden or UK contract law may play a significant role since there are no specific provisions in copyright laws dealing with contracts. The consortium in charge of the study was led by the CRIDS, a research centre of the University of Namur and KEA and also counted on the expertise of national experts. Local and European associations were consulted through a large survey. In the end we confirmed huge discrepancies among different countries and noticed certain contractual practices that could be considered as unfair.
What do you think about the public consultation on copyright rules launched by the EU Commission?
I really welcomed the consultation as a good ground for discussion. There has already been a previous attempt to adapt the copyright framework to the new technologies with a directive, in 2001, but the on-going review process shows that that directive was probably not sufficiently forward-looking. I really pinned my hopes on this consultation although one could claim that it is that it is too technical, even for the stakeholders involved.
Do you see the recent Castex report on private copying as an important step forward in the development of a fairer remuneration for creators?
From the point of view of creators it is a good thing, as it is an attempt to harmonise the situation. Nowadays, we still carry out many private copies, and levies are still a key source of revenue for creators. It is true that some issues are still very difficult to solve and to make compatible with private copying – this is the case for licences or contracts limited to the use of certain works, for example. In the study we have included recommendations on private copying and an unwaivable fair compensation for the authors.
How can one grant audiovisual creators a right to remuneration, in spite of the transfer of rights in favour of the producer?
We suggest to look at systems as the one in Spain, where authors are entitled to a remuneration right for on line uses. This regime is totally compatible with the global transfer of rights to producers that governs audio-visual contracts. In Spain, part of the fees paid by online users (television streaming, online platforms) for the online exploitation of content actually goes to the creator.
What about collective management organisations (CMOs)? The issue has been under discussion for 10 years now. I think that we should bear in mind that CMOs collect royalties for the authors because they represent them. In Europe, we have a model based on cultural diversity, and CMOs are key actors in the implementation of such a model, especially since we have so many creators and producers that are independent and that can get an income only through CMOs. That being said, it is clear that many CMOs are currently not operating as well as they could do, but the new directive will hopefully contribute to solve this, introducing some best practices and more transparency. In many member states CMOs happen to be fairly unpopular. So besides enhanced transparency and more control, CMOs should probably also work on their image.
Do you think that the current copyright framework is still viable? Would a harmonisation at the EU level improve the current situation?
I have the impression that member states are not ready to accept fundamental changes in their national law: legal frameworks and legal traditions are still very different. What I believe to be absolutely necessary, as suggested in the study, is to come up with some key principles at the European level that should be respected by all of the member states. I am not sure whether a total harmonisation would be a good idea or not; anyhow, given the current situation, it is not a realistic perspective.
What will the copyright framework be like in five to ten years, in your opinion?
Much depends on the result of the consultation and what the European Commission has in mind. What I would like to see is a more functional and flexible copyright framework with, at the same time, very strong core principles to be respected. I would also like to see a better balance between the protection of authors and rights holders on one hand, and the availability of the copyrighted works on the other.
I think that having a corpus of legislation, completed by guidelines would be a possible approach. The goal should be to have an enabling copyright framework to make the most of our cultural and creative sector. The new technologies give us a great number of new possibilities, and we should try to take advantage of them without perceiving copyright as an obstacle.