Posts Tagged Audiovisual

Who are Europe’s audiovisual authors ?

Europe is in the process of changing legislation on authors’ rights / copyright in Europe. The texts refer to the need for sector specific solutions for authors in different sectors.

This is also the starting point for SAA’s infographic on audiovisual authors’ remuneration (available in English, French, German and Spanish with a video here). The infographic focuses on screenwriters and directors but, as is often the case in Europe, the situation is a little bit more complicated than that.

So who are the authors of an audiovisual work?


In the countries where SAA has members, this means that directors, screenwriters and music composers are always audiovisual authors. Given that composers have their rights managed by music societies, SAA focusses on the needs of:


But, as shown above, in some countries other contributors, e.g. the director of photography or the costume designer can be an audiovisual author too.

Together, SAA’s members manage rights for


Not only are these the people behind our favourite films, documentaries and TV series, but they are also at the source of Europe’s creativity as well as its cultural and linguistic diversity. Some examples:


See SAA’s infographic [FR, ES], and keep an eye on this blog to find out more about the working lives of audiovisual authors and the challenges they face.




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Portability – A question of time

The first copyright proposal of the European Commission is a Regulation to enable temporary access to subscription services from your home country while travelling in Europe. This is the essence of the Portability Regulation.

The Commission decided against (or maybe just postponed) a full on attack on territorial licensing of audiovisual works and went for a very short but focussed 8 article text. The Commission sees a communication win with this one, and rightly so, the Regulation is a gift to consumers, essentially acting as a limitation to authors’ rights. They want to see this adopted quickly.

The Dutch Presidency is happy to oblige and is racing through the text pushing it up to top political level (COREPER) already, leaving some countries struggling to keep up, while others try to form coalitions on key sticking points in the limited time available.

In the European Parliament however, time is seemingly not of the essence. After spending two months agreeing on which committee should lead on the file (legal affairs and not internal market in the end), the committees involved don’t seem to be following the same Dutch speed.

Given that timing seems to be important to the different institutions here, it seems only fitting that one of the key sticking points is time. That is, how long is the “temporary” in “temporary portability”?

The Commission chose to define “temporary” by referring to location only, with no reference to time.

Some Member States are happy with that, others less so. SAA certainly doesn’t feel comfortable with this.

As the character Papou in SAA Patron, Cédric Klapsich’s Russian Dolls said:

“Be careful, because the temporary, sometimes, can last a long time”

Papou : Fais attention, parce que le temporaire, des fois, ça dure longtemps.

A conversation on what we mean by “temporary” is essential. Are expats who have been away from their country so long that they can’t vote in referendums still only away on a temporary basis?

Maybe we can’t agree on a number of days but a definition of temporary that doesn’t refer to time seems pretty weak for a directly applicable Regulation.


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5 years of SAA

SAA_5AASAA 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.


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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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Let’s get Europe’s audiovisual works out

And by out, we mean out there, being watched.

The dust is still settling following the agreement of the negotiation mandate for the free trade agreement between the EU and the US.

We were particularly pleased to see audiovisual services excluded from the mandate.  What was disappointing was to see this portrayed as a victory for France and French cinema.  While France was clearly the most vocal country in defending its ability to support its local cultural creators, the victory was one for European cinema.

SAA called, along with other European groupings of screenwriters, directors, producers, distributors, broadcasters, cinemas, for audiovisual to be excluded (see here).  SAA represents collective management organisations for screenwriters and directors from across Europe – not just French ones.  The same applied to the other organisations.  Europe’s patchwork of different systems and regulations from country to country has created a sophisticated support mechanism for the creation of audiovisual works, essential to maintain and enhance diversity and circulation.  As technology advances, and the internet continues to change the audiovisual landscape, European countries need to be able to adapt their support and regulation systems in a period of rapid evolution.

As we have said before, Europe’s diversity is its strength.  We should be looking to implement policies that enable European creators to seize the digital opportunities to get our works and our vision of the world out. Now that the mandate is adopted, let’s focus on doing that.

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To negotiate or not to negotiate

Last week the European Parliament made a very strong statement. By a large majority they sent a clear message to the Council and the European Commission: “Europe’s cultural exception is not negotiable”.

The line of the Commission is that everything needs to be on the table for the EU-US Free Trade Agreement (TTIP – Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, for those who love acronyms and twitter hashtags) to maximise its potential.  If the Europeans start excluding this and that, then so will the Americans.  In short, the Commission is saying:

“Everything needs to be on the table but don’t worry, we won’t actually negotiate everything.  The cultural exception definitely won’t be negotiated. Honest.”

One of the analogies that has been used is that of a game of cards and “having the best hand”.  Within such an analogy it strikes me that cultural diversity is more like the house that you are ready to gamble.  If you don’t want to lose it, then you shouldn’t put it on the table.

Europe’s diversity is one of its key assets.  As Harvey Weinstein said while defending the cultural exception in Cannes “Great business is by being different”.  But it comes with its own challenges.  Our cultural works don’t have automatic access to large markets.  The subject matter can even be very specific to a particular country or culture, making it difficult for a film to travel.  Subtitling is a minimum for works to cross borders and some countries won’t go for anything less than full dubbing.  But their is a clear evolution.  The breakthrough of European TV productions across Europe and beyond is proof that the complex support systems we have built are maturing.

If you want to maintain Europe’s ability to create cultural works it can shout about – sign the film-makers’ petition.

The Council votes on the negotiating mandate to be given to the Commission on the 14th June. We need to keep the pressure on.

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Hearing both (or more) sides of a tale

Janine Lorente, the chair of SAA’s board of directors, spoke at the European Parliament’s legal affairs committee hearing on collective rights management on Monday.  She was one of 13 stakeholders in a detailed programme which showed just how many different stakeholders will be affected by the directive when it comes into force.  Out of the 13 presentations, only Janine looked at the issue from a non-music point of view.

This directive cannot just be looked at from a simplified creator, CMO, user perspective.  It has to be looked at within multiple contexts including the different rightholders and sectors that use collective management and the different national approaches. What the Parliament and the Council have to work out is a way of coming up with a text that has the flexibility for the different sectors and legal traditions while fulfilling the key objective of well-functioning societies providing fair remuneration and guarantees to creators so that they can really benefit from their rights .

Not an easy task, but essential for the Directive to work for everyone.

You can find the presentations here and a video of the full hearing here (Janine Lorente’s presentation starts around the 15:48:30 time mark).

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