Stirrings on Authors' Rights
THERE WERE interesting developments
for creators at the World
Intellectual Property Organization's
Standing Committee on Copyright
and Related rights (WIPO SCCR),
which met in Geneva from 7 December
to 11 December.
Geneva, home of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
In the long run, the most significant
for journalists is a call from
Brazil for future discussions on a
wide-ranging review of how authors'
rights work online. This appeared to
call for authors and - more particularly
- musical performers to give up
our right to authorise who uses our
work, in return for "equitable remuneration"
administered through collecting
The International Federation of
Journalists raised this with the Brazilian
delegation, who replied that
they understood the importance of
this "exclusive right" to journalists
in maintaining our reputations and
ethical practice, and they would not
in fact seek to undermine it. Yes, they
suggested, the initiative could and
should lead to discussion on how
authors and performers are forced
to sign exploitative contracts.
For creators more widely, Senegal
and other countries got ahead
in a queue by proposing that the
organisation open talks on a treaty
to make the Artists Resale Right
("droit de suite") apply worldwide -
which it must if it is to be effective.
Following its implementation in the
European Union, some art auction
houses moved parts of their activity
to the US, to avoid paying artists
4 per cent of the value of sales up
to €50,000 - and started lobbying
there to prevent its extension. The
US blocked the proposal in Geneva,
instead calling for a study of how the
right is applied and what effect it has
in the countries that offer it.
But the resale right proposal is
now formally in the queue for debate.
Ahead of it are a treaty giving
broadcasters rights in an attempt to
prevent "signal piracy", and calls for
international rules on "exceptions"
to authors' rights for the benefit of
libraries, museums, archives, schools,
colleges and, er, Google, which has
formed a cunning alliance with libraries
Just after the January Freelance
went to press the European Commission
produced its "Communication"
setting out plans for authors'
rights. It observes that there is
"growing concern about whether
the current EU copyright rules make
sure that the value generated by
some of the new forms of online
content distribution is fairly shared".
Subsequent creators' meetings with
EU Commissioner Andrus Ansip
suggest that the Commission may in
fact have appetite to do something
about the unfair contracts imposed
on us. See www.londonfreelance.org/fl/1512copy.html for details
And in the UK organisations in
and around the Creators' Rights Alliance
(CRA), including the NUJ, are
launching a campaign on those unfair
contracts at www.fairtermsforcreators.org around the acronym
- Clearer contracts, including written
contracts which set out the exact
scope of the rights granted;
- Fair Remuneration. Equitable
and unwaivable remuneration for
all forms of exploitation, to include
bestseller clauses so if a work does
far better than expected the creator
shares in its success even if copyright
- An obligation of Exploitation
for each mode of exploitation. Also
known as the "use it or lose it"
Clause. This is the French model;
- Fair, understandable and proper
- Term. Reasonable and limited
contract terms and regular reviews
to take into account new forms of
- Ownership. Authors, including illustrators
and translators, should be
appropriately credited for all uses of
their work and moral rights should
- All other clauses be subject to a
general test of Reasonableness.
CRA member organisation the
Society of Authors is running its own
successful campaign, including author
Philip Pullman getting coverage
in many newspapers for announcing
that he has "had enough" of writers
being expected to work for nothing
and withdrawing as a patron of the
Literary Festival in his beloved Oxford
after it refused his call to pay
authors who appear there.