Secretary General's June Digest, 2023

In June, we proudly expanded our Board of SAA Patrons with 3 new Patrons. Our key activities have been our networking lunch with MEPs that we organised on the occasion of the LUX Audience Award, issuing a statement and inviting authors' perspectives on AI, and joining forces on the European Media Freedom Act. 

In June, we proudly expanded our Board of SAA Patrons with three new members: Marion Séclin (France), Emmanuelle Fournier-Lorentz (Switzerland) and Ivana Sujová (Slovakia). We were also proud to learn that the SAA's chair of the board of directors, Barbara Hayes, CEO of ALCS (UK), was awarded the SACD Beaumarchais medal for her years of relentless and dedicated work for authors’ rights in Europe! 

Networking lunch with MEPs on 27 June on the occasion of the LUX Audience Award

One of our most important networking opportunities each year is the LUX Audience Award of the European Parliament. The award was established in 2007 as the Lux Prize and is a symbol of the EU Parliament’s commitment to culture and European cinema. Since 2014, the SAA have collaborated with the European Parliament team on the occasion of the award ceremony and invited Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to meet with the finalists’ film teams and representatives of the SAA members (collective management organisations) and partners to a dinner in the European Parliament. Seated around a meal, we provide an informal setting to discuss European culture and media policy (see a few photos on Facebook). Due to the change of format of the ceremony that was moved from Strasbourg to Brussels this year, our traditional dinner in Strasbourg was transformed in a lunch in Brussels, thanks to the sponsorship of the vice-President of the European Parliament, Ms Regner.

This year's winner was Lukas Dhont (director and writer) and Angelo Tijssens (co-writer) of the Belgian film 'CLOSE'. The Parliament’s President Roberta Metsola, Vice-President Evelyn Regner and Chair of the Culture Committee Sabine Verheyen, as well as the 5 finalists echoed the same message during the award ceremony: democracy and human rights are fragile and freedom of artistic expression cannot be taken for granted, even within the Union’s borders. Following the award, we issued a press release about artistic freedom and political and tech changes.  Due to the European elections in June next year, the award ceremony will take place in March. 

Inviting authors' perspectives on Artificial Intelligence

Another activity that is taking us time, in particular to measure the impact on creators’ work, is Artificial Intelligence (AI). After careful consideration, we decided to issue an initial statement on generative AI on the occasion of the adoption by the European Parliament of its position on the Commission’s proposal for a Regulation on AI (AI Act) on 14 June. In short, we welcomed the European Parliament's report on the AI Act but expressed concerns that clearer rules to protect and promote the continued development of human creativity and original works, and their benefits to society, were needed.

The international association of authors’ rights, ALAI, organised a timely conference on ‘Copyright, related rights and artificial intelligence’ on 22 and 23 June in Paris. Like many lawyers and copyright experts, I listened with great attention to eminent professors of law discussing the impact of the technological changes on copyright protection and artistic activities. The conference was a great mix of perspectives that will nurture our work on this long-lasting issue. I feel that the need for authors’ consent, information and remuneration for the use of their works by AI machines is gaining ground.

Moreover, we made use of our membership in the European Internet Forum (created by and for MEPs to inform themselves about European digital policy issues) to participate in a panel discussion on 'generative AI, Art and copyright' on 28 June, led by the co-rapporteur on the AI Act, MEP Dragos Tudorache. We proposed an author's perspective embodied by Tom Chatfield from the UK, who is a prominent author in the field and a tech philosopher. 

Joint efforts on the European Media Freedom Act

Last month I informed you that the European Commission proposal for a European Media Freedom Act was being discussed in the Council working party on Audiovisual and Media (Member States’ representatives) and in the European Parliament. In May, we published the SAA position and in June we co-signed an open letter with 73 European and national organisations to call on European co-legislators to revise their proposal on Article 20 and ensure continued sustainable conditions for the local audiovisual creation across Europe.

The Council adopted its position on 21 June with a positive amendment on Article 20. It was also encouraging to see that the European Parliament's Internal Market committee (IMCO) adopted on 29 June an opinion including well-written amendments on Article 20. The Culture committee of the European Parliament (the lead committee) is currently discussing compromise amendments for a vote in September. We remain vocal and on guard due to the negative reactions that our joint letter caused among the commercial players. Last week I participated in a stakeholder roundtable organised by the Permanent Representation of Belgium to the EU (that will take over the EU Presidency after Spain on 1 January 2024) where I again made sure the SAA position in favour of authors' rights and cultural diversity was made heard.

Before ending, I encourage you to share our internship opportunity. 

I wish you a productive month of July and for those of you that will go on holidays - have a wonderful relaxing and sunny break! 

Best regards,

Cécile Despringre

P.s. The digest is now available as a LinkedIn Newsletter - subscribe here!

My 3 watching/reading tips: