Licences for Europe: Backstage

Now that the dust has settled from last week’s Licences for Europe plenary, I thought I would share some thoughts about the process and outcomes here.

SAA approached the initiative in a good faith and in a constructive and pro-active manner.  We appointed representatives from our members, with practical experience of the different issues, to get involved in the different working groups.  I don’t think the process was easy for anyone involved.  In terms of workload this process certainly demanded significant resources from our side and I’m sure the same is probably true for most of the other organisations and even the European Commission.

In terms of the actual conclusions the SAA did its best to support the most progressive proposals.  These were:

Making it easier for Film Heritage Institutions to clear the rights for the digitisation and use of works.  SAA was actively involved in drafting a brand new agreement between directors’ organisations, film heritage institutions, collective management organisations and producers to create a template agreement for licensing archived films for digitisation and guaranteeing remuneration for rightholders.  The agreement goes into significant detail and was the result of months of discussions. It represents a significant step forward on this issue.

Portability of European VOD platforms’ subscription services.  While a broader cross-section of stakeholders made general commitments on portability and cross-border access, EuroVOD was very concrete in the steps it was going to take to satisfy any demand for access to subscription services while travelling abroad.  SAA was very happy to support this approach.

Increased use of international standard audiovisual works identifiers.  SAA worked very hard to bring together 13 organisations to get behind a statement supporting the systematic use of identifiers like ISAN.  Just from our side, if these identifiers are used systematically then SAA’s member CMOs can spend less time working out what the translated title of a TV series episode is and more time passing on remuneration to their member authors.  It should also make it easier for everyone in the audiovisual chain to identify and license works which is becoming more and more important as more digital services develop.

Digitising and making available public service broadcasters’ archives.  SAA made significant progress with EBU as to the base principles behind the digitisation and future exploitation of public service broadcasters’ archives and the associated remuneration of authors.  We are committed to continuing the development of this initiative beyond the end of the Licences for Europe process so as to involve more organisations and develop more concrete solutions.

All four of these outcomes would probably not have happened without the Licences for Europe dialogue, so they must be seen as successes.  The dialogue did, however, show where there are limits to what certain stakeholders are willing to accept and we hope that this will inform the Commission’s future work on developing solutions to some of the perceived problems with the single digital market.

There were some organisations that were publicly very critical of the Licences for Europe process from the very beginning.  A number of them even withdrew, not wanting to give credibility to a process they did not believe in.  I’m sure that for a number of these organisations, SAA is just another ‘rightsholder organisation’ looking to defend the status quo.  I would hope that our contributions to the different groups has shown that that is not the case.

The future of authors’ rights must put the creators at the centre of any future legislative work in the field of copyright.  For us it is simple, if Europe’s screenwriters and directors works are able to travel and reach new audiences, then the authors will be better remunerated and be able to make more new works for us to enjoy.

JT

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