On 1 January, the French Presidency of the Council of the EU began. Put aside the pandemic and the upcoming French elections, the expectation on the Presidency from creators and their representative organisations is still high as France was the very first country - decades before the rest of the world - to recognize authors’ sovereignty over their creative works.
In 1777, Caron de Beaumarchais gathered 22 fellow authors to formulate a response to the under-remunerated use of their works by the Théâtre-Français. In 1791, after a 14-year struggle, authors won the vote on the French law recognising the concept of authors’ rights. Thanks to Beaumarchais paving the way, the Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers (SACD) was established in 1829, being the oldest existing Collective Management Organisation (CMO).
At the beginning of the new year, I had the pleasure to speak to Patrick Raude, Secretary General of SACD and Vice-Chair of the SAA.
Working many years for the French government with audiovisual policy, Patrick Raude described how he enjoyed meeting with authors, producers, broadcasters and platforms in the field of animation, film, and TV. In 2016, he accepted the leadership position of Secretary General at SACD. What attracted him was to work for a non-profit organisation that gives back to authors and represents such a diversity of creators. Being the Vice-Chair of the boards of both the SAA and CISAC, he has been actively contributing to improve authors’ situation on a European and international level.
SACD brings together over 55,000 writers and directors of audiovisual, cinematographic and web works, as well as in performing arts. It collects their royalties and offers them services, such as legal support and a variety of social and cultural funds for their individual projects and collective activities promoting culture.
SACD was one of the co-founders of the SAA in 2010.
Patrick Raude told how they wanted an association for CMOs to advance rights for screenwriters and directors from all over Europe. Firstly, by teaming up when advocating for an EU level playing, secondly, through more cooperation when implementing EU law, and finally, by improving best practices of CMOs. In addition to improving EU copyright framework for authors’ rights, the SAA has been playing a key role in advocating for the promotion of and investment in European audiovisual works (via the adoption and implementation of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive).
Benefiting from a long experience that has allowed it to adapt to the evolution of markets and media, the SACD has closely followed the market developments and been involved in the new exploitation forms of audiovisual works by managing the authors’ rights used by the digital platforms, said Patrick Raude. SACD has contracts with all major digital platforms (such as Amazon, Disney, Netflix, and YouTube and will have one with HBO Max when their service will be available in France). We are currently opening negotiations with Facebook and TikTok about SACD’s repertoire of works present on their platforms.
To prepare for the EU Council Presidency, SACD together with the SAA met the French Minister of European Affairs, Clément Beaune, and put on the table 3 concrete issues for the Presidency to act on:
Firstly, to follow-up on the transposition process of the Copyright Directive, Article 18; authors’ right to proportionate remuneration.
SACD has mobilized European screenwriters and directors to sign an open letter to the French President Macron, urging the Presidency to be ambitious and support European authors:
“There is one model within the EU which has been in place for many years in Belgium, France, Italy, Poland and Spain. This model is based on the recognition of a right to proportional remuneration, by entrusting the authors' societies that represent authors with the task of negotiating with broadcasters and digital platforms, is the best guarantee that a world of discounted author’s right will not triumph in Europe, a world in which authors could be deprived of their rights and excluded from any future earnings on their works, without benefiting from the labour collective protections of the Americans.”
Secondly, to install protection for cultural asset to stay in Europe.
In France, a new law was adopted last year, regulating that ownership of a film catalogue by non-European companies shall not have the effect of removing the availability of the works from the European market when buying the exclusive right. Member States should be encouraged to take similar regulatory initiatives said Patrick Raude and explained that it is important in order to avoid that film catalogues may be bought by for example the US or China and the works can be withdrawn from the market, for political, economic, or other reasons. The European Commission, for its part, must consider new mechanisms for protecting catalogues and works which are strategic assets for Europe.
Thirdly, to promote distribution channels for European works.
The quality and quantity of European works is high, but it is sometimes hard to access, and producers and creators must often go through companies based outside the EU, to make them available on the European market, explained Patrick Raude. In addition to those non-EU platforms, which are very much welcome and can provide interesting opportunities for European authors, we need a European platform for film and TV works, including public service broadcasters. ARTE is a platform available in 6 languages (FR, DE, EN, ES, PL, IT), however it must be scaled-up and made visible for a larger audience.
On my last question, whether Patrick Raude believed that the French Presidency of the EU Council can deliver on the expectations, he answered reassuringly that the French government seems to be very committed to carry cultural topics forward, but it will obviously depend on other Member States and the European Parliament. The upcoming French elections in April and June and the current situation related to Covid and Omicron’s variant are an additional difficulty. For instance, due to the speed of the Omicron infections, the French Presidency has cancelled its initial plan to organise in-person Cultural Summit and activities in Angers this January, an in-person event that was very promising for European culture.