Vilnius on the forefront of audiovisual authors’ rights protection

I have just got back from Vilnius where I was invited by the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture to make a presentation on the collective management of audiovisual authors’ rights.

They are seriously considering improving the protection of audiovisual authors and performers’ rights. The conference aimed at assessing the protection of audiovisual authors and performers at international level, European level and in a specific country, Spain, before entering into a discussion of their situation in Lithuania.

At a time of uncertainty for the future of EU copyright rules due to the changes in the European Commission, it was very refreshing to hear that there is at least one Member State who does care about audiovisual authors and wants to address the current inefficiencies in the legal framework that prevent them from exercising their rights.

After expanding the list of devices subject to private copying levies in 2011, which significantly increased the compensation collected for authors, performers and producers (€3 to 4 million a year in total in a country with 3 million inhabitants), the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture is now preparing a draft law to improve the situation of authors and performers of audiovisual works and enable them to receive remuneration for both the creation of audiovisual works and their subsequent use in the various possible forms of exploitation.

Inspired by existing legislation in Spain, Poland, Bulgaria and Estonia, the draft law will propose distinguishing between the remuneration to be paid to the author by the producer for the creation of the work and the remuneration to be paid by users for the commercial use of the works. To protect the interests of the authors, the draft law proposes that producers will not be able to takeover the rights of authors to remuneration for the use of the audiovisual works. Agreements in which authors waive their right to remuneration would be deemed invalid. In addition, it proposes to provide for the compulsory collective administration of the remuneration which is seen as the only way to ensure authors’ right to remuneration in practice. This argument is strengthened by the Collective Rights Management Directive which now provides for European standard criteria for governance, accountability and transparency of collective management organisations.

Interestingly, the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture invited other Member State representatives to the conference. Was the objective to give them inspiration for their future legislative plans? I hope that the European Commission will hear about this Lithuanian initiative and will address, in its future activities on EU copyright rules, this urgent issue of the remuneration of audiovisual authors in the digital era.