Last year I wrote in the German press about the frustration of seeing unlicensed copies of my work freely available and easy to find on the internet and the absence of legal services delivering the full range of European films I would expect. I wanted to be provocative to strike the contrast between my expectations and the market delivery, but I also wanted to show that there are possible solutions. I suggested creating compulsory licences for European audiovisual works. A little bit like the radio where any works can be used but where remuneration is due to the authors and other rightholders.
One of the most frustrating things for screenwriters like me is to talk to someone about a film I helped make and for that person to discover that they are unable to watch it legally.
And I am a lucky author, my film Sophie Scholl was sold to many territories and is generally available. My next film, Elser, has already sold around the world. Other films I have worked on have not been so lucky. I very much understand the frustrations of film fans who can’t find the films they have heard about.
But I also have another hat, that of a film producer.
The reality is that the climate for the financing of European works is very difficult and very modest productions often involve a number of different investors from different countries. My authors’ rights in the script I write are for the world. But as a producer I know that very often the only way to finance the actual production means selling off bits of those rights to different investors, sometimes territory by territory. Any push for pan-European licences cannot ignore this point: if it deprives us from possible investors, European production and distribution will suffer very much.
If I put my author’s hat back on, I think we also need to look at the problem from another angle. If we want works to be available cross-borders then we also need to guarantee authors – screenwriters and directors – that their remuneration for the use of their films will flow back to them. At the moment, for a variety of reasons, this doesn’t really happen.
If our creative works are to be available across-borders then our remuneration should also flow across borders. We therefore need EU new remuneration mechanisms that associate authors’ remuneration to the exploitation of their works.
Screenwriter, producer and SAA patron