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European audiovisual authors stand up for their rights


- Cineuropa reports on the SAA-organised conference that took place on Monday

European audiovisual authors stand up for their rights

The second edition of the White Paper on Audiovisual Authors’ Rights and Remuneration in Europe, produced by the Society of Audiovisual Authors (SAA),was presented at an event that took place at the Solvay Library in Brussels on Monday.

The event entitled “Putting Authors Back at the Heart of the Creative Economy” saw the participation of members of the European Commission and Parliament, together with acclaimed figures from the film industry, such as British director Roger Michell (Notting Hill), French director Bertrand Tavernier (A Sunday in the Country), Dutch screenwriter Robert Alberdingk Thijm (A’dam - E.V.A.) and German screenwriter Jochen Greve (Tatort).

A document endorsed by many renowned screenwriters and directors, and supported by FERA (the Federation of European Film Directors) and FSE (the Federation of Screenwriters in Europe), the white paper illustrates the situation in the audiovisual sector in Europe and proposes a way forward to finally ensure an adequate approach to authors’ rights in the digital era.

SAA is an association founded in 2010 that represents audiovisual authors by defending their moral and economic rights. Building on the first edition in 2011, this second publication is a call to the newly elected European Parliament and Commission, with a view to introducing new measures in May in terms of territoriality and the digital market.

As SAA executive director Cécile Despringre explained during the conference, while the audiovisual sector in Europe is doing very well, authors are far from seeing the effects of this. In fact, authors’ revenues represent only 0.37% of the total revenues earned in the sector (based on data collected from the 25 SAA members in 2013). 

Working chiefly on a freelance basis, authors rely upon their intellectual property rights as their main source of income. These rights therefore not only represent the moral link between the author and his or her work, but also ensure a connection between the success of such work and the commercial return for its creator. Transferring rights to a single global market, as envisaged by the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, puts this connection in jeopardy.

As Bertrand Tavernier remarked as he opened the conference, there seems to be confusion between the concepts of portability and authors’ rights. Directors do want their works to be accessible to the largest possible audience, but not if this is to the detriment of cultural diversity. Cinema, the director continued, cannot be treated like fast food, all of it “tasting” the same as it gets served to millions of people without any kind of differentiation.

Roger Michell insisted on the importance of empowering directors. The more rights get taken away from them in favour of companies, the more authors are reduced to people who just shoot movies. Empowered directors make better films, the director stated. Adequate measures will benefit not only authors themselves, but also the quality of production, and consequently the whole sector. Unfortunately, he continued, we are a long way away from placing authors at the heart of policies. Cultural-based campaigns such as GREAT in the UK only touch superficially on issues that are unique to each type of content and, as such, need to be addressed individually. 

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