Secretary General's May Digest, 2024

I heard on the radio that Belgium had the wettest month of May in more than a decade… I confirm it from my experience, fortunately, I travelled a bit this month and got some sun during my trip to the Cannes Film Festival!

Here are a few words about the SAA’s activities for this month. The EU elections remain our priority, as we urge our colleagues, friends and family to vote and prepare to welcome the new Parliament with concrete recommendations on how to support authors' rights. Moreover, May was the month of the Cannes Film Festival with interesting debates and meetings!


Early May, we published our contribution to the Europe-wide #UseYourVote campaign! We involved SAA Patrons, as well as our CMO members, in an open letter calling on the film and cultural sectors’ people to vote by highlighting that the European Union is important for culture and that European policymakers can make a real difference for authors' rights. With the rise of Euroscepticism, we need to make an extra effort to communicate what the EU does (well) and why it matters! Although, I agree, it is not always easy to explain how it works when 720 members of the European Parliament from across political parties get together and negotiate with the Commission and the governments of 27 EU countries, who do not always see eye to eye with their MEPs!

You can read the press release published on 7 May. The open letter has already received 200 unique views on our website. We thank all those who signed! We also shared 6 ways the EU Parliament supported audiovisual authors to highlight their achievements during this last term. I also welcome you to read a blog post about the challenges the EU elections pose for culture, written by Aline, who is doing an internship with us.

Preparing for a new Parliament

As the EU elections approach, we are also busy preparing our messages to the new MEPs. We can expect a Parliament that is both more far right and more divided. We are unlikely to see many new legislative proposals from the European Commission who is busy implementing the Digital Services Act, the Digital Market Act, the Artificial Intelligence Act, etc.. However, it will be an opportunity to take stock of the state-of-play of the copyright legislation and authors’ remuneration following the implementation of the 2019 directives and to seek the Parliament's support in holding Member States accountable for implementing the directives effectively.

Among the issues we will be addressing is of course artificial intelligence. The AI Act is just the beginning, not the end of the story on AI and copyright. The regulation imposes some transparency obligations on AI companies on the data used to train their models, but it does not solve the legal uncertainty around authorisation and remuneration. We urgently need to find ways to protect the authors’ rights and provide them with remuneration when their works are used for AI purposes. I am talking to the SAA members, other stakeholders and the European Commission, who is mainly focused on the implementation of the text and data mining exception and ways for rightholders to opt out. We also listened to the debate among EU Culture Ministers who discussed AI mid-May. It's a complex exercise that requires technical knowledge on how the large foundation models work, in a very moving environment and in the absence of transparency on the side of AI companies so far. You can read how I currently feel about AI in this interview I made with an Italian journalist earlier this week.

Another topic that needs to be continued is the working conditions and status of authors and artists. This month the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union 2024 invited stakeholders to a seminar in which my colleague Annica participated. It was a unique occasion, with all three EU institutions in the room - Parliament, Commission and Council - discussing their initiatives and commitments so far and the importance of keeping the topic on the agenda. The Presidency also gave space to representatives from Spain, Ireland and Belgium to present their good examples of reform, and finally dedicated some time to listening to the views of the cultural and creative sectors on fair practices.

Greetings from sunny Cannes

As I do every year, I travelled to sunny Cannes to attend the film festival for the first weekend. Due to the pre-election campaign, the EU institutions were in a low-profile mode with no public event organised by the Commission, no official delegation of MEPs but a conference organised by the Parliament to show the links between cinema and politics in the context of their campaign to encourage people to vote. I attended other conferences, in particular on AI, and caught-up with cinema stakeholders that I do not meet in Brussels. I also had the chance to watch two very good films that ended up in the winners’ list:  Emilia Pérez by Jacques Audiard and The Substance by Coralie Fargeat. I recommend them to you!

Next month...

We will make a first assessment of the outcome of the European elections at the end of June. The SAA board of directors will meet in Stockholm and our members will get together online, for two of our working groups, on private copying and on equality and diversity.

In the meantime, I invite you to read Annica's interviews with the heads of our Belgian members, deAuteurs and SABAM, featured during the Belgian EU Presidency and I encourage you to vote on 6-9 June!


My 3 reading/watching tips: