Elections event: Towards a better future for authors

Cécile Despringe, Secretary General of the SAA, was one of the speakers.

A European organisations' event on the European elections and authors' rights.

Every year in April, UNESCO and WIPO celebrate authors’ rights, with the World Book and Copyright Day (23 April) and the World Intellectual Property Day (26 April). On 23 April, an event about the European elections was organized at the European House of Authors by SACD and Scam, in partnership with European Visual Artists, European Writers Council, European Composer & Songwriter Alliance, Federation of European Screen Directors and the SAA.

As highlighted at the Belgian Copyright Conference 2024, which was held in the Belgian town of Namur this past April in the framework of the Belgian Presidency of Council of the European Union, the digital transformation brings to the fore the need to strengthen the rights of authors and to genuinely improve their socio-economic situation in Europe. This is essential to promote creativity and therefore the cultural diversity that shapes our European identity.

For once, the usual election debate was replaced on 23 April by an event with inversed roles: Representatives of the European authors' associations based at MEDAA came together to identify a common ground and forge alliances to work towards a better future for authors. The audience – Belgian and European – included candidates from Belgian political parties (Défi, Écolo, Les Engagé.es, PS and MR), creators, representatives of collective management bodies and professional organisations, as well as cultural and creative sector stakeholders.

Frédéric Young, General Delegate of SACD and Scam in Belgium and Director of MEDAA, gave a warm welcome to the more than fifty guests and reminded them of the event’s purpose: to bring together people who are passionate about culture, creation and European issues.

As an introduction, Paul Laurent, Adviser in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the Economy and Labour, took stock of the Namur Copyright Conference – mentioned above – the idea for which arose during the transposition of the Copyright Directive, for which the ambitious Belgian solution was applauded and pointed to as an example for other EU Member States.

The conference (find the programme, speaker background and presentations ici) focused on the following four topics:

  • the accessibility of the right to remuneration by means of collective management in the context of streaming;   
  • remuneration of press publishers and journalists for the online use of press articles; 
  • buyout clauses; artificial intelligence.

To conclude, those four subjects can be grouped together under a single objective: a fair distribution of the economic fruits of creation, even when creators are not in a strong negotiating positions.

Cécile Despringre, Secretary General of the Society of Audiovisual Authors (SAA), then welcomed the Belgian transposition of the Copyright Directive and called on the next legislature to achieve greater harmonisation of remuneration mechanisms for audiovisual authors.

As far as artificial intelligence is concerned, the adoption of the AI regulation is only the beginning, and SAA is critical of the European Commission's interpretation of the exception for text and data mining, regarding it as an illusion and a legal sham that legitimises the plundering of works.

SAA calls on the next European Parliament to promote a rebalancing of power and adequate remuneration for authors.

Carola Streul, Secretary General of EVA, reflected on the importance of giving artists a stronger voice, increasing their visibility, and proposing solutions that will give authors a brighter future and enable them to continue to create and make our world more beautiful.

The socio-economic condition of authors can also be improved through initiatives proposed by the European Parliament under Article 25 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which obliges the European Commission to respond to legislative proposals. It is therefore necessary to involve all stakeholders in the discussions to ensure that artists receive the legal and social support they need to obtain fair remuneration and a decent standard of living.

Pauline Durand-Vialle, CEO of FERA underscored that creators want artistic freedom and to be able to make a living from their work. This is a time of significant challenge for filmmakers in Europe for various reasons: on one hand, the rise of far right and populist governments has an impact on cultural policies, on the second hand, the European entertainment environment is shifting. Adding a sprinkle of AI technology to the mix creates a storm.

As we approach the elections and the next mandate, FERA is bracing for significant developments in key areas including the copyright directive, particularly the transparency obligation, the principle of appropriate and proportionate remuneration, and the contract adjustment mechanism. The interplay between copyright and AI regulation is of course going to be key.

There is a tendency to believe that creators don’t understand business. They do. They want to have artistic freedom and want to be able to make a living from their work.“Pauline Durand-Vialle, FERA

Marc du Moulin, Secretary General of ECSA, lists three objectives to be placed at the heart of the European agenda:

  • First of all, the need for clear legislation to protect musical works from being systematically harvested, without transparency, consent or remuneration, by generative AI tools;
  • The second objective is a review of the rules governing music streaming platforms, the only online platforms not regulated at European level with regards to remuneration of authors and cultural diversity;
  • Last but not least, the protection of composers, particularly of screen music composers, from buyout contracts and their clauses, which are in fact governed by US law.

Grażyna Plebanek, author and member of Unia literacka, spoke on behalf of EWC. In the upcoming term, EWC aims to prioritise three key areas:

Firstly, advocating for the fundamental principles of authorisation, remuneration, and transparency in the realm of AI development. This requires pushing for ethical and beneficial legislation and regulations, particularly in the establishment of the EU AI agency, while addressing loopholes such as the TDM exception and ensuring legal scrutiny to prevent unauthorised and illegal use of copyrighted works by AI companies.

Secondly, EWC emphasises that the combat against internet piracy is a central concern and calls for proper remuneration for every use of authors' works. The EWC also advocates for limiting exceptions on payments for the use of books in educational and institutional settings.

Lastly, EWC seeks to address the social and economic conditions of authors and calls for a legal structure and status.

“We need a clear definition of what is considered cultural work and what is a digital mashup.”Grażyna Plebanek, EWC

At the end of the meeting, Benjamin Feyen gave an overview over the institutional stages that will directly follow the European elections, and the issues they raise. Benjamin Feyen is the Secretary General of CCFG (Cultural Creators Friendship Group) (CCFG), a cross-partisan coalition in the European Parliament, united by the will to act on behalf of creators. As the EU doesn’t have much competence in cultural policy, we prefer to think in terms of “policy for the culture”.

The elections take place from 6 to 9 June, and MEPs will arrive at the EU Parliament within two to three weeks thereafter. The first weeks are dedicated to the organisation of the political groups: which European group the national parties should join. Each political group negotiates seats in the Committees, who will have the Chair and Vice-Chair post, etc.

The first official days for new MEPs will begin on 16 July, the date of the constitutional plenary. Until then, there will be an overlap between the ‘old’, outgoing MEPs and the newly elected ones. The plenary will elect its President, bureau members and the composition of the committees. It will also vote on the President-elect of the Commission. This period between June and July can be quite challenging, but it is also the time for stakeholders, associations, and newly elected Members of the Parliament to identify common ground and forge alliances.

Written by: Aline Bacqué (SAA), edited by: Morgane Batoz-Herges (MEDAA)

English translation where necessary: Katrin Büchler (FERA)