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AVMS – Improving the promotion of European works online

One consultation down, just a couple more to go. On 30th September the consultation period on the Audiovisual Media Services (AVMS) Directive closed. This is one review that the Commission is trying to fast-track with a proposal announced for the first quarter of 2016.

The priorities in the consultation for SAA (summary here) are the promotion of European works, ensuring fair competition between OTT services wherever they are established, keeping the scope of the Directive fit for purpose and that advertising rules continue to protect the moral rights of audiovisual authors.

The section on the promotion of European works strikes us an obvious tool to achieve the Commission’s objective of improved circulation of European works, particularly online. Online is exactly where we feel the current version of the directive doesn’t do enough. Covered by Article 13 of the Directive, the current text leaves Member States free to choose how to implement it, with just a list of 3 example methods of how to promote European works given. Unfortunately the reality is that this article has been poorly implemented (or even just copied and pasted) with no monitoring systems in place. This leaves us with situations like on Netflix where you have to look for European works (or even national works) under the rubric “Foreign Films”.

Not only are these Member States missing a trick by not encouraging promotion of European works, but when combined with the country of origin principle, they are also creating unfair competition between services in markets where stricter rules apply.

SAA would like to see Article 13 strengthened across Europe and the opportunity for forum shopping limited to a minimum. If there is no desire to strengthen Article 13 among the member states then maybe the country of origin needs to be refined for OTT services so that all operators in a market play by the same rules.

Our second main point is on the scope of the Directive. Services like YouTube or Dailymotion aren’t considered as audiovisual media services. These services have ‘channels’, ‘networks’ and paid for subscriptions, they have autoplaying playlists of content for ‘lean back’ viewing. The question of editorialisation has always been key, but there can be less and less doubt that, whether by human or algorithm, these services editorialise, promote sponsored content and suggest content. These services need to be brought into the scope of the Directive and the articulation of the AVMS Directive and the eCommerce Directive improved.

Finally, on the issue of advertising, we would like to see calls for the weakening of the requirements for linear services being resisted. In contrast, the requirements for non-linear services need to be strengthened as advertising techniques develop online that can blur the line between creative works and advertising.

The Commission will now go and look through the responses it has received and we will get on with answering the other consultations on the table. The European Parliament will undoubtedly express its opinion in its report on the Digital Single Market which addresses the AVMS Directive among many other issues. The Member States are also keen to see action here so I don’t think it will be too long before we are writing about the Directive again.


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Bertrand Tavernier writes to EC Vice President Ansip

Following a meeting between European Commission Vice President, Andrus Ansip, and SAA patrons Bertrand Tavernier, Roger Michell and Hugh Stoddart (see here) on 22nd June, SAA patron Bertrand Tavernier wrote to the Vice President to follow up on some important issues discussed at the meeting, such as film authors’ rights, territoriality and distribution, film heritage.  You can read his letter below followed by additional comments from German screenwriter and SAA patron, Jochen Greve, and Franco-swiss director, screenwriter and Europa Distribution president of honour, Ursula Meier, Romanian director and screenwriter, Cristian Mungiu and German director and screenwriter, Volker Schlöndorff.

Jochen Greve, German screenwriter and SAA patron

This is not just a cinema issue.  In Germany, each feature-movie or documentary-movie is shot as a co-production and with a big part of television money, and this has been the case for forty years. For a bigger online-market you need licences, and each licence starts with the authors. We have to sell it to the producers or broadcasters or platforms. I am very afraid that a shift to pan-European licences, even if not deliberate, will be a big problem in a bigger online-market for us authors and the remuneration of our works.

Ursula Meier, Franco-swiss director, screenwriter and president of honour of Europa Distribution

I am Swiss, French, live in Brussels and deeply feel as an European film maker. Europe is a mosaic of cultures and this is what makes its great richness and (its) identity. It should never be standardised, but unified. The creation of a Digital Single Market in Europe would have terrible consequences, both on the economic and artistic point of views, for European cinema and its diversity.

It is absolutely essential to protect copyright and all the stakeholders of the value chain who make the existence of a film possible, including thanks to the exclusivity of rights. Local distributors for example make a film exists on their territory, give it visibility, because they believe in it, because they have bought the rights to do it. If they lose their ability to recoup the investment they made when buying the film, it is the end of it.

There are ideas and solutions to be found so that the films of today and yesterday circulate better within Europe, but most importantly and above all, let us not destroy what is functioning.

Cristian Mungiu, Romanian director and screenwriter

It’s a very clear message and I absolutely agree.  Excuse me for not being able to bring any additional contribution –I’m in the middle of the shooting a film.

Still, I don’t think there is much to add – the issue is how to determine these people to listen to the community of filmmakers.

Volker Schlöndorff, German director and screenwriter

Dear All, cher Bertrand,

thanks for your incessant efforts, thank you Bertrand for your elegant letter. All this proves that the education of politicians and bureaucrats on this subject is still a huge task ahead of a Sisyphus task indeed.

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Fair remuneration for creators – turning words into actions

Andrus Ansip: “We need to ensure a fair remuneration of all those involved in the creative sector.”

Günther Oettinger:


Since copyright was made a priority right at the beginning of the new European Commission mandate, we have heard about the importance of fair remuneration to creators.

As an organisation that has called for fair remuneration for screenwriters and directors since our creation we have been very pleased to hear this.

Then the Digital Single Market Strategy came out.  It calls for the clarification of the rules on the activities of intermediaries in relation to copyright-protected content and in the comments it explicitly says:

Measures to safeguard fair remuneration of creators also need to be considered in order to encourage the future generation of content.”

The Commission staff working document accompanying the Strategy highlights: “content creators are generally concerned about the fairness of remuneration conditions. The fragmentation of national legislation in that area could create difficulties for the providers of multi-territorial services in the internal market as they have to comply with a variety of different legal requirements for the remuneration of authors and performers for online exploitation within the EU. Two studies investigating these issues are currently underway and should become available in the course of 2015.”

The European Commission is finalising the first study on the remuneration of authors and performers from the audiovisual and music sectors to be published by the summer.  While we are eagerly awaiting to see the results, our own experience suggests that the case for screenwriters and directors is already shockingly clear.  As summarised in our white paper on audiovisual authors’ rights and remuneration in Europe (executive summary here), SAA’s members only collect 0.37% of the European audiovisual market for distribution to screenwriters and directors.  The Federation of Screenwriters in Europe found in a survey of its members that the median income of screenwriters was just 22,000€ per year.  From a Digital Single Market point of view, remuneration needs to flow back to authors for any exploitation of their works, irrespective of where in the EU country it happens.  One of the most important problem to be fixed by the Digital Single Market Strategy is to ensure that creators get a fair remuneration for the exploitation of their works. When a Spanish screenwriter’s film is shown in Poland, he should be remunerated accordingly.

Time for encouraging statements is now coming to an end.  The Commission is expected to publish a legislative proposal before the end of the year.  If we want a digital single market that works for consumers, business AND authors then fair remuneration has to be a part of it.


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2©15 – A year for authors’ rights?

A very happy new year from the SAA team to all our readers!

So, what lies ahead in 2015 in terms of policy and court cases of interest to Europe’s screenwriters and directors?

What we know from the end of last year is that the European Parliament has already started work with a number of initiatives – an initiative report on European Cinema in the Digital era (draft now published), another evaluating the 2001 copyright directive, and a copyright working group which will hold hearings throughout the year.

The European Commission work programme confirms an evaluation of the AVMS directive with a REFIT exercise, which could see some targeted amendments to the directive in 2015. The Commission also confirmed its intention to present a legislative initiative on copyright in 2015 – expect something for the summer.

The European Cinema Forum, announced in last year’s communication on European Cinema in the Digital Era, is also expected to be launched this year.

In the first quarter of 2015, the Commission will also publish a study on the remuneration of authors and performers in the audiovisual and music sectors.  This will hopefully provide fuel for Europe’s screenwriters and directors to demonstrate how the digital revolution of the audiovisual market needs to see them fairly remunerated for every use of their works.

SAA will definitely contribute its voice to this debate with the publication of the 2nd edition of its White Paper on the rights and remuneration of audiovisual authors in Europe (see our 1st edition here).  Keep your eyes open for a save the date and expect more information very soon.

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Are content creators content?

Europe is a historical continent of content creators.

We’ve had some of the world’s best.

Leonardo Da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Picasso – they really made some great content.

Today’s museums are lucky that these guys were creating content to fill the space.

Dickens, Moliere, Goethe. Without their content, today’s libraries and bookshops would certainly be less attractive.

Beethoven, Chopin, The Beatles – their content still fills concert halls (on occasion) and music stores (both online and offline) today.

We’ve filled up a lot of places in the real world with content.

But the internet is massive and getting bigger every day. The companies on there need more and more content to keep people happy. They’re not interested in “works”, or “art”, or even works of art, masterpieces, films, music and books, literature, graphic novels, concept albums, opuses. All these terms have been boiled down to one word “content”. Just stuff that fills space.

Europe still has some of the world’s best content creators, but are they content?

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D-Day for Oettinger (D is for Digital)

Today is the big one. SAA and anyone else in the audiovisual sector is now under no doubt of which hearing they need to follow. Günther Oettinger.

The current German Commissioner for energy has been given the role of Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society. Under the supervision of Vice-President Ansip, he will be responsible for Europe’s copyright and audiovisual policies as well as the audiovisual support scheme Media.

Is this a good or bad thing? Well there are different ways of looking at it. Those who see the glass half-empty might see this as a victory for the approach of DG CNECT and their vision of copyright reform over the vision held by DG MARKT’s copyright unit. Those who see the glass half full might see this as an opportunity for the units involved to really resolve the different issues at stake internally and overcome the conflicts of which the abandoned Copyright White Paper was symptomatic.

Will he get a tough hearing? Some Green MEPs have already questioned his digital credentials and his ability to resist the lobbying efforts of the big digital players, but the general impression is that he’ll be ok.

There are already some surprises for the hearing, though. Oettinger, now in charge of copyright, will not be questioned by the Parliament’s Legal Affairs committee who deals with these issues. The main questions will come from the industry committee (on aspects linked to digital and telecommunications infrastructure) and the Culture committee (on aspects linked to Europe’s audiovisual policy).

And this is where our optimism or pessimism will begin.

He will be trying to encourage infrastructure investment from telecommunications and cable operators as well as technology manufacturers and service providers from the Commission’s grand coalition for digital growth and jobs. These same operators who want to be out of the copyright enforcement debate. Who refuse to pay retransmission royalties in certain countries across Europe. Who denounce the private copying compensation system so essential for Europe’s creators. Will Oettinger be able to resist making promises on copyright policy to guarantee investment in telecommunications infrastructure? Will the grand coalition promise him investment in European jobs in return for action on private copying levies?

We will be hoping that his answers today will reassure us that he is capable of balancing the different demands of the stakeholders in his portfolios and helping us build a bright future for European authors.

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Culture, the big loser of the next European Commission

Culture portfolio is losing departments as well as prestige and importance.

The current Commission made a lot of effort to impose a coordinated approach to the cultural and creative industries through the merger of the Culture and Media programmes into “Creative Europe”, forcing traditional cultural sectors such as dance, theaters and classical music to live under the same roof as audiovisual creators and accept that the audiovisual sector is cultural too. This was advertised as a great achievement by the existing Commission, after years of separate programmes and activities.

The proposed re-organisation of the next Commission takes us back to the previous arrangements when Mrs Reding was Commissioner for the Information Society and Media (2005-09), with the Media programme and audiovisual policy (the Audiovisual Media Services Directive) in DG Information Society and Media (since renamed CNECT), fully separate from any cultural dimension.

This will shift audiovisual away from culture again, both in practice and in terms of the logic it represents. Between a cultural and digital approach, the latter was chosen and this will have consequences for the audiovisual sector, in particular in copyright terms. The cultural dimension of many copyright issues might be diluted. It will also break the coordinated approach to the cultural and creative industries.

The move is not only questionable for the interests of the audiovisual sector, but it is also a bad signal for the prestige of the cultural portfolio. Taking into account the limited power of the EU in culture, we have been used to smaller countries such as Luxembourg, Slovakia or Cyprus managing the portfolio. This shows that it is not a coveted portfolio by the biggest and most influential countries.

Today a step further has been made to devalue the portfolio: it has been attributed to a politician who was part of a government who conducted policies that run contrary to freedom of expression, media pluralism and cultural diversity. The European Parliament will surely give him a rough ride next week at his hearing, but it is unlikely that it will oppose his nomination as any other Hungarian candidate would come from the same government…

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