European film funders warn EU from making “big bang” policy changes to copyright, authors call for fair remuneration

European film funders from 31 countries including the UK’s BFI, Germany’s FFA and France’s CNC have warned the European Union (EU) to avoid making any “big bang” policy changes to copyright rules.

The Association of the European Film Agency Directors (EFADs) issued a resolution today (March 17) declaring that it considered the current EU copyright framework to be “fit for purpose” as “it provides a strong basis for current business models to evolve in response to people’s changing preferences as to how they access films and other audiovisual works.”

The film agency directors suggested that “the priority of the EU should be the establishment of a level playing field ensuring equel treatment between all operators, a commitment to economic sustainability and engagement in the creation of local works.”

However, they stressed that “improving online cross-border access to European audiovisual works and services must not weaken authors’ and investors’ rights and not disrupt the sustainable financing of European works.”

Territorial licensing

Turning to the question of territorial licensing, the EFADs’ initial position paper explained that this was “key” to the financing of audiovisual works, the optimal return in investments through a multitude of exploitations, and to efficient and targeted distribution strategies, adapted to the various local audiences and local market situation.

“Territorial licensing is crucial to ensure cultural diversity,” the funders argued. “Removing it would imply a dangerous standardisation of creation because only the biggest and strongest audiovisual actors would survive.”

“When considering changes to the current legal framework, we urge the European institutions to adopt an evidence-based and targeted approach, informed by impact assessments and the possible consequences of any regulatory changes for audiences, growth, jobs, education and our cultural heritage,” they said.

“Above all, we should avoid any ‘big bang’ approach that would put at risk a sector in a time of significant adaptation and change. Any legislative action should be gradual and decided in close cooperation with the different stakeholders engaged at developing the digital audiovisual market,” they concluded.

The EFADs members indicated that this initial paper intended to set out the general principles shared by the funding agencies and would be followed by an in-depth assessment of the European Commission’s proposals and concrete suggestions for actions.

Authors’ rights and remuneration

The EFADs resolution came just days after participants attending the Authors&Co colloquium in Paris were “in agreement that there is no need to reform copyright in Europe.”

“It is vital that the surge experienced by digital technology not impede that of culture,” a final communiqué stressed. “Quite to the contrary, the former should feed the latter so that they can mutually enhance one another. Any policy built on antagonism between the two is condemned to fail.”

The event, which was attended by French Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin and organised by LaScam, also criticised so-called ‘fiscal dumping’, arguing that “tax rules must be harmonised in order to establish fair competition between digital players and, ultimately, tax the activities of Internet operators across all of the territories where they operate.”

Meanwhile, the Society of Audiovisual Authors (SAA), which represents over 120,000 screenwriters and directors in 18 European countries, will be unveiling the second edition of its White Paper on Audiovisual Authors’ Rights and Remuneration in Europe next Monday (March 23) in Brussels.

The SAA event will open with Notting Hill director Roger Michell giving an author’s perspective before executive director Cécile Despringre outlines the White Paper’s main findings and a discussion is held with, among others, Maria Martin-Prat, Head of the Copyright Unit at the Commission’s DG CONNECT.

Speaking exclusively to Screen, SAA’s Communications & Public Affairs Officer James Taylor stressed: “What we are proposing fits into the whole scheme of the film industry. We are not wanting to play one side off against another, but when there is money being made from exploitation  that a little bit more of this comes back to the screenwriters and directors.”

“We are wanting to move the focus of the current debate away from territoriality so, if the Commission is thinking of doing something on copyright, then they should look at this issue of remuneration.”

Taylor added that this second edition of the White Paper has been endorsed by the Federation of European Film Directors (FERA) and the Federation of Screenwriters in Europe (FSE).

In addition, the SAA will be having meetings later in the week with Commissioners Navracsics and Oettinger to discuss the question of remuneration.

The first edition of the SAA’s White Paper, published in February 2011, had argued that “an improved system of payments” to audiovisual authors for the exploitation of their works should be a “priority” for the European Commission.

It concluded at the time that this would “unlock the potential of the European audiovisual sector and develop a sustainable remuneration system for audiovisual authors” and also “provide clarity and certainty for users and consumers about the rights and uses licensed throughout Europe.”

Rewriting history

Meanwhile, the European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Günther Oettinger, appears to be claiming his own ‘right to be forgotten’ in the Internet by having some speeches redacted in retrospect in order to remove the more outlandish of pronouncements.

A case in point is the speech he gave at the Digital4EU stakeholders conference in Brussels last month, which appeared on his website in one form in English – even though he spoke on the day in German.

In the meantime, a shorter version has appeared on the DG CONNECT without any mention of Napoleon, homing pigeons, the Yalta Conference or the late entertainer Udo Jürgens, as well as more contentious statements about copyright.

However, the fully unexpurgated version of Oettinger’s speech is (naturally) available via YouTube and, ironically, Napoleon and the homing pigeons reappeared in the speech he gave yesterday (March 16) at the opening of the CEBIT conference in Hanover.

It’s a rap

While Herr Oettinger is working at the “Europeanisation” of digital policy, he may attract attention from unexpected quarters after the Swabian rappers Die Orsons sampled a soundbite from his now legendary speech given in English in Berlin in December 2009.

Oettinger’s “Everybody does as he pleases” serves as a hook in the rappers’ new song What’s Goes? whose music video runs on an eternal loop for an incredible 2 hours 37 minutes.