Copyright experts discuss solutions to guarantee authors’ fair remuneration

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The International Literary and Artistic Association (ALAI), a well-known gathering of copyright law experts founded by Victor Hugo in 1878, held its annual international congress in Bonn on 18-19 June 2015.  The theme was ‘remuneration for the use of works: exclusivity v other approaches’.

ALAI has a habit of ‘looking out for authors’ said Victor Nahban, ALAI’s President, during his opening speech and two days of discussion of all possible mechanisms to guarantee rightholders’ remuneration in the digital world ensued. Finding a fair deal for authors is one of the issues the Commission is currently working on in the context of the upcoming proposal for EU copyright reform. Authors and performers’ remuneration is on the agenda of the Commission and the European Parliament but no political decisions have yet been taken, said Maria Martin-Prat, the Commission’s head of the copyright unit. Additional hurdles to be tackled which she raised were the unfair contractual position of authors, while stressing Member States’ reluctance for any EU intervention, and the unfair value transfer online in favour of intermediaries. It was clear from the discussions that authors should be remunerated, not just compensated, but there was disagreement as to the means to achieve this. A number of speakers, including ALAI former vice-president Adolf Dietz, clearly think and repeatedly voiced their claim that statutory remuneration rights are the only way forward to improve the authors' position, not exclusive rights. Indeed, the simple fact that ‘remuneration for the use of works’ was the topic of the Congress is proof enough that exclusive rights do not allow authors to be fairly remunerated. As such, exclusive rights ‘lose their raison d'être and need to be replaced by another model’ according to Thomas Dreier (Karlsruher Institute for Technology). In this context, the SAA’s claim for ensuring audiovisual authors’ fair remuneration for all exploitations of their work - an unwaivable right of authors to remuneration for their making available right (based on revenues generated from online distribution and collected from the final distributor) combined with mandatory collective management - was mentioned as a possible solution. Indeed, it is a simple solution to put in place and to include in the revised Copyright Directive to be. It would not interfere with the producer’s role to produce and exploit audiovisual works but would organise the remuneration derived from online exploitation, which would be collected from the final distributor and flow back to authors through their CMOs regardless of the number of links in the audiovisual commercial chain. The crucial role of CMOs in guaranteeing that authors actually receive the fair remuneration they are entitled to was underlined several times during the Congress, notably by Sylvie Nérisson (Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition in Munich) and Jorgen Savy Blomqvist (Copenhagen University, Denmark), explaining that remuneration rights can only work in practice if they go through CMOs because they provide authors with bargaining power. The important role of CMOs and unions in helping authors get better contracts and support in litigation was also raised. Other interesting ideas to guarantee authors’ fair remuneration were debated during the Congress, all in all giving the Commission plenty of food for thought and concrete proposals on how to make the EU’s Digital Single Market fairer for authors. MA