‘Little streams make big rivers’ – royalties for public performance and educational uses matters

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Have you thought about all the times you watch films and TV when you are not at home nor at the cinema? Indeed, you are watching from the waiting room at the doctors, the airplane seat or in the classroom. These are all occasions when screenwriters and directors should be - but rarely are - receiving fair and proportionate remuneration for the use of their works.

The SAA’s collective management organisations (CMOs) collect and distribute royalties to European screenwriters and directors for the exploitation of their works. In 2020, 84% of their total collection came from broadcasting, private copying, and retransmission. An additional 5% were collected for online uses (yes, a figure that should be higher considering the development of video-on-demand platforms). The remaining 11% is for “other” uses, and this part includes, among others, collections for public performance and educational uses of audiovisual (non-music) works.

Besides advocating for and promoting the economic and moral rights of audiovisual authors, the SAA also provides a platform for CMOs to develop so they can most effectively collect royalties for their members, and help to shore up the eco-system in which they can continue to create. Lately, our members exchanged information about their national legal framework for public performance and educational uses, to better understand the different definitions and interpretations that exist. An overview of the legal environment, and the fact that only in some countries does the law provide for mandatory collective management, shows that authors’ rights differ widely depending on what European country authors work in.

When it comes to educational uses of audiovisual works, some countries don’t have any specific authors’ right, while others provide for it in their national law. Some consider educational uses to be covered by the right of communication to the public, others by the right of reproduction too. In many countries, educational uses are an exception to copyright, but in some cases the law provides for a compensation for authors. Sometimes, the law specifies what is considered educational uses and in other times there is no such description. So, what can be considered as educational uses? As an example, it can be audiovisual works shown within schools and educational establishments, for digital copies, distribution for scientific and library uses, or screenings in cinema for pupils.

Moreover, some national laws provide a specific authors’ right for the public performance of audiovisual works, but it can also be covered by the general right of communication to the public. In a few cases it may be considered as broadcasting and retransmission too. The types of public performance that may be covered are the communication in a public place of audiovisual works incorporated in TV programmes or of individual audiovisual works (fixed on a copyright media, such as on DVDs). It can also be works incorporated in a streaming service or theatrical screenings.

What are the public places where the works are shown? Well, it is places such as bars and restaurants, hotels, shops, transportation services (for example airplanes, buses, and boats), hospitals, spas, individual health practitioners, museums, and of course, cinemas.

In several countries, there are exceptions and limitations reducing the scope of the public performance licensing. This can be for example for uses by persons with disabilities, for scientific research or by museums. It can also be works used during religious or official ceremonies or schools and academic events, as long as it is for non-profit making purpose, for example events organised by social welfare services for youth or prisons.

Although a few percentages of CMOs’ total collection of royalities may not sound like a lot of money, ‘little streams make big rivers’ as one says. Nevertheless, is it important that authors are recognised for their creative works, and the model of a statutory right to remuneration, managed by collective management organisations, is the solution proven to be the best for audiovisual authors. Learn more by watching our expert seminar and read about Article 18 of the EU Copyright directive.

A. Ryng