September in Brussels is always a funny thing.
August (despite the best efforts of the Commission to publish proposals and reports at the end of July) slows down completely, lulling you into a feeling of false preparedness (if there is such a word) for the months ahead. Then September hits you. Proposals here, Declarations there, conferences this day, board meetings the next. The whirlwind grabs you. All this is a very long way of introducing a very significant event that took place last month that I’ve been meaning to write about for a while. The European Parliament adopted a resolution on the Online Distribution of Audiovisual Works on 11th September (read the full text here) and SAA joined a number of organisations in congratulating the European Parliament and its rapporteur Jean-Marie Cavada on the end result. To see the European Parliament adopt such a united position on a text that includes a whole section on remuneration of audiovisual authors is extremely encouraging. The text calls for an end to buyout contracts and the strengthening of the negotiation position of authors and performers. Let’s hope the European Commission’s report that will follow up on this picks up these points as they are essential to the future of online. I think we have to recognise that one of the key arguments that is used to justify illegal access to audiovisual works online is that whatever happens, the authors of the film (or any other creative work for that matter) aren’t really paid and that the money goes to companies. If we are going to encourage the younger generations (who have grown up with free online access to films and TV shows) to pay, then part of the solution is in convincing them that the creative people behind the films they love get paid. This isn’t a criticism of the intermediary companies that make up our industry, they play an essential and often poorly understood role. It is however a wake up call that they cannot allow this perception to continue. The same could be said to apply to collective rights management organisations (one of the suggested support structures for better deals for screenwriters and directors in the Cavada report) and I hope that the proposal for a Directive from the Commission will reinforce their vital role for creators. However there is no legislative procedure on the table to address the problems identified in the European Parliament resolution. Either this is something that the Commission should consider or the actors themselves should take the initiative and support the sustainability of the whole sector through a rebalanced sharing of the success of creative works.