At an online conference, writers and directors demand fair rights and compensation

– Authors and experts explored the main challenges faced by audiovisual authors and the divergences between the legal systems of different countries

Some of the participants in the discussion

On October 7, the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC), the Society of Audiovisual Authors (SAA) and Writers & Directors Worldwide (W&DW) co-hosted a virtual panel titled ‘Lights and Action on Authors’ Royalties “. The presentation, moderated by the CISAC Regional Director for Africa, Samuel sangwa, saw writers and directors come together to underline the absence of fair rights for audiovisual authors and to support actions aimed at guaranteeing their right to collect royalties.

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Five authors in particular – Spain Olatz Arroyo and Esther Morales, Japan Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Australia Jan Sardi and that of Mali Cheick Oumar Sissoko – shared their experiences and explained how difficult it is to receive a fair share of the success of their films and series, and how essential this is in helping them pay their bills and reinvest in new creative endeavors.

Sissoko explained that he had made his first two films without a professional contract reviewed by lawyers. He then self-produced his third feature film to land a real contract. He said that over the years, the local authors’ association has made a huge effort to professionalize the working environment and provide legal advisory services. Today, both creators and policy makers need training to address a serious lack of copyright awareness.

Kurosawa spoke of his experience of losing a year-long lawsuit, which demonstrates the flaws in a legal system where no right to remuneration is in place. He also spoke about the importance of secondary distribution costs, which are currently negotiated by the National Directors Guild, and which cover most of its living costs. Normally, the principal royalty paid by the production would not be enough to support it for one or two years, during the development of the film.

Morales and Arroyo said they worked in one of the few countries to protect authors by guaranteeing an inalienable right to remuneration managed collectively by authors’ societies. Sardi stressed that a healthy audiovisual industry should adequately remunerate authors, as viewers already recognize their irreplaceable role: “We are storytellers; they want to hear our voices, our stories, our culture – that’s what it is. That’s what they pay for.

Sangwa then introduced the invited panelists: the Executive Director of SAA Cecile Despringre, W&DW chair Yves nilly and CISAC Director of Legal Affairs Cristina Perpiñá-Robert Navarro. Commenting on the testimonies provided by the five authors, Despringre noted the “great gaps in terms of copyright protection and remuneration” between the different countries, but also that their relative contractual freedom “never works in their favor”, with little or no room for maneuver. She also raised concerns about the global increase in “buyout contracts,” where authors are paid a lump sum for their work and full intellectual property rights.

Perpiñá-Robert Navarro said that one of the root causes of these gaps is the lack of education and information, as many authors are fundamentally unaware of their own rights. Sometimes, even when fair contracts are signed, professionals are afraid to enforce them because they fear being blacklisted by their employers. Moreover, she added that in some countries, writers and directors are not even legally recognized as authors.

In his speech to policy makers, Nilly stressed: “We are not only talking about our economic situation, but also about the development of the industry itself and cultural diversity. […] The new generations of authors, in particular, need to be able to create and make a living from this career. It’s possible [to do that]. Countries with good laws protecting authors and their rights are the ones that produce and distribute the most.

More broadly, all stakeholders agree on the fact that lawmakers must act urgently to correct these flaws, and create an environment where authors are protected and talents retained.

The event was closed with a short video message recorded by the Chinese filmmaker and CISAC Vice President. Jia zhangke.

You can watch the entire conference by clicking here.

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