Copyright in the spotlight once again
by Cécile Despringre
A year to the day after the orientation debate on copyright organised at the heart of the European Commission on December 5 2012, the Commission has come back with a public consultation on the revision of European rules concerning copyright. The original debate caused a lot of concern among European creators, as demonstrated by our petition calling on Europe to support its creators and to protect authors’ rights.
Open until March 5, this consultation once again targets copyright. Through an English-only, 36-page document that lists 80 incongruous questions, each with a more legal and theoretical focus than the last, but nonetheless dangerously angled towards weakening authors’ rights, the Commission demonstrates it has not taken into account any of the work, remarks or court decisions that have taken place over the past year.
A number of professional cinema and television organisations were involved in the dialogue process known as “Licences for Europe”. This process built on the work carried out on the online distribution of audio-visual works within the European Union (see the green paper of July 2011 and the European Parliament resolution of September 2012), and the participants actively contributed to the explanations of how the European cinema, television and new-media markets work. However, the consultation document disregards all of this and once again adopts the well-worn refrain that copyright is a barrier to the availability of works in Europe, which prevents online services from being rolled out all over Europe.
Firstly, the roll-out of online services by country or by linguistic zone reflects the strategic choices of the platforms in terms of markets affected by linguistic fragmentation and huge cultural diversity. This is entirely unrelated to authors’ rights. Above all, it is impossible to see how the continued differences in terms of copyright, and particularly those concerning exceptions, have any impact at all on the availability of works to the public.
All European cinema and audio-visual professionals know that the mere fact that a work is available does not guarantee it an audience. Many of them fight on a daily basis to ensure the promotion, visibility, and access to the works to which they have contributed. They do all this in the middle of an abundant and competitive market supply that is in constant transformation.
Today, authors’ rights are still the only tool that enables the traceability, monitoring and monetisation of works that are increasingly hard to fund and to make profitable. They are also the only tool that allows authors, when they do manage to keep control over their works, to build up a legacy for themselves that would guarantee their financial independence and their freedom to create new works that are not simply orders or repetitions of so-called “winning” formulas.
Europe’s strength and creativity are at stake. This is why, somewhat unusually, as it is normally our role as a professional organisation to respond to this type of consultation, we are asking everyone to reply to this questionnaire individually. Those who oppose copyright have taken over the debate on the social networks. They have already sent thousands of messages to the Commission, which now seems rather surprised that it has so clumsily triggered a tsunami (a mess which, incidentally, it will have to deal with).
The only positive aspect of all of this is that after the myriad questions that try to challenge the scope and duration of copyright, as well as compliance with it, some questions tackle subjects that are close to authors’ hearts, such as the requirement for fair and equitable compensation for the use of their works, the need for sounder contracting practices and private copying.
If you need any assistance in filling out the questionnaire, please get in touch with your professional organisations, which, just like the SAA, will be able to provide you with guidance as you make your way through this labyrinth of questions. We would also encourage you to sign the petition launched by Creators for Europe in order to protect your rights and the culture of European cinema. Make your voices heard, too!
(Translated from French)