Giving creators their fair share

31-03-2014

Giving creators their fair share

The International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers works to ensure the world’s artists and creators get their fair share of royalties. CISAC’s general counsel Gadi Oron tells TBO how it’s done.

What does CISAC do?

We are the umbrella body for collective management organisations (CMOs, also known as authors’ societies) around the world.

We represent 227 such organisations from 120 countries as our members. Through these members, we are the voice of more than three million creators from all artistic fields including music, audiovisual and visual art. We work closely with creators to facilitate relationships with governments to promote artists’ interests. We also engage in a range of other activities and services that we provide to our members.

Our key mission is to promote the value of copyright and creative works, and create an environment that allows our members to collect sufficient royalties on behalf of the creators they represent.

What type of relationship do you have with your members and industry?

We do a lot of lobbying and public relations on behalf of our member organisations and represent the interests of creators in court proceedings.

The creators themselves are very active within CISAC. We have international councils of creators, each serving a different category of copyright (music, audiovisual and visual arts). These councils meet regularly to discuss issues specific to their respective communities.

Our president is French electronic music artist Jean Michel Jarre. We work very closely with him on our public affairs and communications strategies. We also have four vice presidents, each coming from a different region and different creative sector. Together, our president and vice presidents represent all regions of the world and all artistic fields. 

I am the general counsel for CISAC, and in this role I am responsible for all of the legal and public affairs work, as well as our communications activities. I oversee all of the litigation, lobbying and contractual work, as well as the legal aspects of the work we do around the governance of our member societies.

We have developed and are constantly updating our set of governance rules—our code of conduct for member societies—which ensures that each of our members meets high standards of efficiency, transparency and accountability in their operations.

What is CISAC doing to fight online infringement?

As our focus is on promoting the collection of royalties we don’t normally enforce rights directly. We work with governments and international bodies on making a legal framework that ensures effective protection of rights in the online world. We want better protection for digital rights, so that creators can get a fair share in the digital market and that this market can continue to develop.

We participate in discussions at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) on international treaties; take part in consultations in Europe; and work directly with governments on domestic laws to promote a legal framework that supports the licensing of authors’ rights.

In January 2014 we published our annual Global Collections Report. This study shows the levels of authors’ society royalty collections. It’s interesting that while we see an increase in royalties being collected year on year, which is obviously very positive, the share of the digital market in overall collections remains very small.

In 2012 (the latest available data), our member societies collected €7.8 billion ($10.8 billion) in royalties. Just 4 percent of that comes from the digital market. On the one hand, this indicates the huge potential that still exists in this digital market, but on the other hand it demonstrates there’s a lot of work to be done on making sure that creators get their fair share of online revenues.

What challenges do you face when collecting royalties outside the digital sphere?

The challenges differ between regions. In some countries it is getting the rights in place and dealing with the more fundamental and basic royalty collection. In others, the challenge is the level of royalties that can be obtained. In Europe the issues have been more about cross-border licensing, but a new consultation is now looking at a wide range of topics related to copyright which could significantly affect creators.

India is an important market where we are still fighting for the basic rights of creators. The rights to obtain royalties from broadcasters are under attack there. A Delhi appeals court decision from May 2012 held that authors are not entitled to collect royalties from broadcasters, which goes against international copyright treaties and norms.

Interpreting local law in a manner that goes against international law is something that simply can’t continue. The Indian market has massive potential, and is very important, so we had to step in by initiating proceedings before the Indian Supreme Court. We want the court to understand the impact this could have, not just on local creators, but also international creators.

Meanwhile, there have been very positive developments in China, where the government has clear intentions to modernise the law and bring it in line with western standards. This is one of the reasons we established our regional Asia Pacific office in Beijing, in January 2014. We would like to be present, work closely with government, and promote the rights of local and international creators in this important market.

What are your plans for the Asia Pacific office?

China is a huge market with a huge potential. However, when you look at the figures for the whole of the Asia Pacific region—which account for just under 20 percent of all royalties collected globally—most of the revenue comes from Australia, New Zealand and Japan. It’s difficult to say what percentage you would expect in Asia. Europe accounts for nearly 60 percent of overall collections; that 40 percent gap is huge. There is potential in the Asia Pacific region, especially in countries such as China.

What kinds of challenges do you face in China?

This goes to both the level of protection, and to the level of royalties that can be collected. According to the figures we’ve received from all of our collecting societies, 75 percent of royalties comes from the communication or public performance of works, which includes collections from broadcasters and companies that play music to the public.

In the Chinese market this really needs more development, in terms of who you collect for, because there are many places that are not paying, and in terms of royalty rates, which are currently very low. So it is both a question of coverage of the market and the rates that properly reflect the value of the work.

How will CISAC be expanding its work in the legal and public affairs area?

We work on three levels: international, regional and domestic.

Internationally we are active in forums where there are discussions on copyright or issues that relate to the protection of creators. We promote the interests of creators there.

On a regional level we are active in Europe, where we have been participating in consultations on the new directive on collective management of rights, for example, and the current review of EU copyright rules.

We also work directly with governments to ensure that the legal framework enables sufficient, effective protection of authors’ rights so they can collect royalties from commercial users. We continue to do that with a focus on developing markets such as Brazil, China, India and many countries in Africa. Generally speaking, we work to increase the voice of creators in every territory.

We consider public affairs and lobbying as strongly linked to communications. We’re communicating more with the outside world on what we do and on our members’ work on behalf of creators, such as how much money is being collected, where and how.

We also promote communication between our members so that, for example, societies in Asia know about the challenges Latin American societies are facing, and societies in Europe are updated on what’s happening in other regions.

Ultimately, the strength of this system is in the links it forges between societies, so when a Chinese rights holder’s music is played in the US or South America, the Chinese creators obtain their royalties.

Another important thing we do is to operate and maintain the international databases that link the local databases of our societies. This makes it easy for our members around the work to identify the rights holder of a song that’s played on the radio and pay the royalties to the correct owners of the rights.

Is competition between the societies a positive thing?

It depends where and when. In Europe, the EU Commission set different initiatives to promote competition between societies, as part of its ‘single market’ approach. But the same approach is not necessarily relevant in other territories. In the majority of countries you find one society for each category of right holders and this normally works to the benefit of creators.

Competition can be good where it encourages efficiency. This is something that we’re working on through our governance rules for member societies. It is important to remember that ultimately our members’ primary goal is to promote the interests of the creators. Competition between two entities that provide the same services in a single territory could potentially interfere with that, for a number of reasons, and there’s a delicate balance to be struck between competition on the one hand, and the protection of creators’ interests on the other.

2012 was a record year for collecting royalties—why?

It comes down to the continuous efforts by our members to collect more, to be more efficient in how they operate, and to collect from as many commercial users as they can, in a variety of different ways.

We also have been doing a lot to increase collection in fields other than music, for example in the visual arts area, where we are working to promote the resale right of visual artists. This right allows creators to obtain a share in the price paid when their work is resold in auction houses. It exists in about 70 countries. It doesn’t yet exist in the US or China, but in both countries there are now pending amendments to copyright law to introduce it. We want to ensure this happens.

The challenges we face change according to the markets. We’re looking at the value of creative content in the online market by promoting a fair share of royalties for creators. The amounts paid by some major services are very low, which is a major concern for us.

Are more societies sheltering under the CISAC umbrella?

We have four regional offices, covering Asia, Latin America, Europe (mostly Central and Eastern Europe) and Africa. Each one of these regional offices works with local societies and one of the things they’re working on is to promote the establishment of new societies in countries where they do not exist. For example, in many countries there are no societies for visual arts or audiovisual content. In a few markets collective management of rights is generally underdeveloped.

What’s your outlook for 2014?

We’ll be continuing what we have been doing, but with a stronger focus on giving creators visibility. We look at establishing new links between the creative community and legislators, governments and international institutions that develop the policies that affect creators. The better protection creators get, the more they can contribute to the economy and culture with their creations. 

This article was first published on 01 April 2014 in World IP Review

CMO, CISAC, copyright, online infringement

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