SAA was created 5 years ago to represent the interests of collective management organisations (or CMOs) for audiovisual authors. When we say audiovisual authors we specifically mean screenwriters and directors of film, TV and multimedia programmes. Music composers are also authors of audiovisual works but their rights are dealt with by music CMOs.
Being created in 2010 makes us relatively young – many other European organisations in the audiovisual sector or creative industries more broadly have been around for longer. We have grown quickly from 9 founding members to 29 members in 22 countries. But why was there a need to create the SAA?
The founding organisations set up the SAA because they felt that, in discussions with the European institutions, too often the issues of creators and copyright were treated through the perspective of music. This may have been because the music industry is more organised than the audiovisual sector (collective rights management is commonplace) or was the first to suffer from mass unlicensed exploitation and distribution online. However, the two sectors, although based on the same broad principles, and both relying on authors’ rights and copyright as a foundation, function very differently and many of the issues facing the different creative sectors cannot be resolved just by fixing the problems of one sector.
We also aim to improve the understanding of how Europe’s audiovisual sector works, not only how it is different to the music sector, but also how it differs from the Hollywood studio system. Production, financing, distribution, promotion and exploitation of European films do not face the same challenges as for US studios. Our national markets and SMEs are simply not comparable to the studios, let alone the internet giants. TVs also play a crucial role in financing and supporting cultural diversity in Europe that is specific to us. Europe’s audiovisual sector is therefore extremely diverse, and so is the situation of its collective management organisations. Some CMOs manage both screenwriters and directors’ rights, others just directors, others just screenwriters. Some countries have competing societies, others have one single organisation for all authors irrespective of the sector. There are many misconceptions and we would like to help rectify that while bringing transparency on the work of our members. Our main work towards this has been through our two white papers (2011 and updated in 2015) which clearly present the diverse situation of Europe’s screenwriters, directors and their CMOs.
SAA’s main focus has been on ensuring screenwriters and directors are remunerated for the use of their work (from a legal, licensed source), something that is unfortunately not the case today. We want film and TV fans to know that when they watch a film or TV show, that the screenwriters and directors are being paid. One off payments at the moment a film or television programme is made cut authors out of the future success of their creative works and are contrary to the principle of authors’ rights. This has to be fixed at EU level to ensure that all European authors get remuneration wherever their works are exploited in the EU.
However, while this is our lead area of action, it is obviously not our only area of work. We care about the general condition of the sector in which screenwriters and directors work and we also want European works to be able to circulate better across Europe. Our joint wish-list for the new 2014 European Parliament, prepared with FERA and FSE, demonstrates the range of European issues that are important to the wellbeing of Europe’s film-makers: audiovisual policy, the regulation of internet platforms, international trade, intellectual property rights’ enforcement, etc. A look at the last 5 years of SAA’s work also demonstrates the range of issues we work on.
Authors’ rights and copyright have been identified as priority action areas by the European Commission. It looks like the next 5 years will be just as busy.