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Industry Report: European Policy

Extended collective licensing systems take centre stage at the latest SAA seminar


The panellists discussed the benefits of implementing ECLs to facilitate the licensing of large amounts of works, which could prove particularly useful in regulating online content and mass usage

Extended collective licensing systems take centre stage at the latest SAA seminar
A moment during the seminar

On 12 December, the Society of Audiovisual Authors (SAA) organised a two-hour seminar titled “Extended Collective Licensing: How Can It Help Audiovisual Authors?” The event was moderated by Eleonora Rosati, professor of IP Law at Stockholm University. It saw the participation of copyright expert Jukka Liedes, Norwaco senior legal advisor Ingelin Skaret, copyright lawyer Peter Schønning and the European Commission’s deputy head of the Copyright Unit, Emmanuelle du Chalard. In addition, there were recorded testimonies contributed by screenwriter and playwright Helen Blakeman, and writer-director Peter Payer.

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During her introductory remarks, Rosati highlighted how extended collective licensing (ECL) made its first appearance in the 1960s in the Nordic countries, where it has had a long-standing history, inspired by labour agreements and developed in parallel with TV broadcasting and the mass usage of copyright-protected works. EU Member States are in the process of transposing the EU Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, and so far, many have transposed Article 12 to introduce a legal basis for such licensing mechanisms in their own copyright system.

Next, Blakeman and Payer’s video messages were played. Blakeman stressed the value of “IP, thoughts and creativity” as well as fair remuneration. “It is important, as an individual author, to belong to organisations that act on our behalf. Not only does it mean an additional source of income, but it also gives us the power of a collective voice. What CMOs [collective management organisations] and the SAA do is to give policymakers an understanding of the work that we do,” she said.

Payer focused on the financial importance of having an income to bridge the five or six years needed to develop one’s next film, but also on the “emotional and moral component”, which requires filmmakers to be paid fairly and be respected in order to be able to create freely and authentically.

During his presentation, Liedes touched upon his 40-year experience developing the ECL system in the Nordic countries and how he has seen interest in ECL growing. He suggested studying the ECL system and learning how to use it, adding: “It requires mass usage of works, involving a large repertoire and numbers of rightsholders.

“In order to rely on ECL, you need a well-functioning and representative CMO. However, all rightsholders are treated equally, and non-represented rightsholders also benefit from ECL. [...] The procedure of approval of the ECL by the government and making the decisions publicly available makes the system stronger and more transparent,” he continued. Other benefits include greater flexibility, streamlined licensing for CMOs, legal certainty for users, and the avoidance of exceptions and limitations.

The floor was then given to Skaret, who explained how Norwaco is an umbrella organisation hosting 36 member organisations representing authors, performing artists and producers. These member organisations then authorise Norwaco to seal agreements on behalf of their individual members. Finally, the member organisations distribute the payments to the rightsholders.

Norwaco handles many ECL agreements, approved by the government, for retransmission/third parties’ TV distribution, broadcasters’ archives, TV in public places, educational uses, and the use of audiovisual productions in libraries and museums.

“Before the new Copyright Act, we had three specific audiovisual ECL [systems] that today have been merged into one general ECL. [...] As technological developments move faster than the law-making process, a general ECL gives us the flexibility to enter into new agreements or supplement existing ones. What might be the disadvantage of an overly general ECL is that it loses purpose and the signal effect of what it is about, for users and rightsholders. In the end, we need both general and specific ECLs,” Skaret further explained.

Schønning defined Articles 12 and 17 of the DSM directive as “a match made in heaven”, especially when it comes to handling huge masses of online content, and even though cross-border issues are yet to be resolved. “ECLs could play an important role in implementing Article 18 of the DSM directive. The idea that authors and performers have a right to proportionate remuneration could be secured through reservation clauses for third-party distribution of works in their initial contracts,” he added.

Du Chalard stated that 19 EU states have already transposed the directive, “including 14 EU countries that have implemented Article 12, many of whom have not had the system in place previously”. Although prior to the EU Copyright Directive, there was only one EU provision referring to ECLs in the “SatCab” Directive and short mentions in a few other directives, a general provision for a legal basis was introduced in Article 12, which represents “an optional provision allowing Member States to apply ECLs to their national territories to facilitate licensing for large amounts of works, ensuring legal certainty and rightsholders’ remuneration”.

The speakers’ contributions were followed by a Q&A session.

You can watch the full recording of the seminar below:

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