On the 1st of January, Portugal took over as Chair of the EU Council Presidency. The country is well-known for its port wine and football players, but less for being the home of one of the world’s oldest Universities and bookstores. “We are very old but at the same time we are very proud of our modernity”, said Paula Cunha when describing SPA, the Portuguese Collective Management Organisation, soon to reach a century of age.
I sat down with Paula Cunha, Member of the Executive Board of SPA, over a video call to learn more about the Portuguese Society of Authors (SPA), its work and expectations on the EU Council Presidency. Ms Cunha has a PhD and 18 years of managerial experience in the Portuguese public service, before joining SPA nine years ago. SPA was established in 1925 and is the sole cooperative in Portugal that represents more than 26,000 Portuguese authors from all disciplines, including literary and arts, music, dance and audiovisual. SPA employs more than 160 people working for the rights of authors as well with other activities, such as editing and publishing and promoting culture.
“It is essential for CMOs to exchange experiences, knowledge and challenges, this we can do as members of the SAA.”
SPA became a member of the SAA in 2010, when it was established. “It is very important for us to belong to an international organisation such as the SAA”, explained Paula Cunha. “We live in a global society where everything is connected. Culture and creativity help to shape a more united humankind. It is essential for CMOs to exchange experiences, knowledge and challenges, this we can do as members of the SAA. CMOs must think in an integrated way, especially when it comes to European common policy. This shapes how CMOs take decisions and actions at local level. The SAA’s specialised knowledge on EU legislation such as the Satellite and Cable Directive, the Copyright Directive and new initiatives such as the Digital Services Act is precious for CMOs’ work and the contribution are key for audiovisual authors”, said Ms Cunha.
“Culture is what feeds our souls. We need it to survive and to be a better humankind, this is why it is so important to support creators.”
“Culture is what feeds our souls. We need it to survive and to be a better humankind, this is why it is so important to support creators, especially since they are so badly affected by the pandemic”, stressed Ms Cunha. SPA has done a lot to help authors, by providing advance royalty payments, emergency funds and cultural funds for projects so they can continue to create. The wholehearted efforts by SPA have been recognised and very appreciated by its members.
Paula Cunha said that with regards to filmmakers, the technology of production has changed a lot and consumers watch movies and television in a different way. Consequently, legislation and even some EU grants no longer match reality and challenges authors face in the digital world. She, continued: “We therefore hope that the Portuguese EU Council Presidency will be sensitive to all the new challenges faced by the cultural and creative sectors and that it promotes public and private investment in terms of focused programmes and strong legislative framework.”
“We hope and trust the EU Council Presidency to come up with fair solutions for a good implementation of Article 18.”
Among the priorities of the Portuguese EU Council Presidency are to advance on the Digital Services Act package, deliver on the European Pillar of Social Rights and prepare Council Conclusions on the Media and Audiovisual Action Plan. The government also plans to move forward with its national implementation of the EU Copyright Directive.
“We do not have fair remuneration provisions in Portugal for audiovisual authors, so they transfer all their rights to producers for a lump sum payment. Collective management for audiovisual is not mandatory”, explained Ms Cunha. To change this has been one of SPA’s goals. SPA has asked the government for an upgrade of the legislation in order for the CMO to defend Portuguese audiovisual authors better. “A good implementation of Article 18 of the Copyright Directive, with a right to remuneration for the exploitation of the works, collectively managed, is a must”, said Ms. Cunha, and she ended with a smile; “We hope and trust the Portuguese Presidency to come up with good and fair solutions”.