New laws on authors’ rights contracts proposed
SEVERAL EUROPEAN countries have new laws or proposals to deal with the issue of unfair contracts being imposed on creators. A new campaign in the UK is pressing for one here - see here.
In Germany, in March the government put forward a rather limited measure. In October 2015 the ministry of justice had published a draft law on the reform of copyright contract law. The main points of the draft included:
- strengthening the rules on collective agreements that set minimum standards including minumum payments;
- introducing a right for unions and associations to bring collective actions for violations of these agreements, in their own name;
- improving a "right of recall" - similar to what in the US is called a "reversion right": authors would be able to end their publishing contracts after a certain period, if another publishing house wants the work for more money, but the original publisher can stop this by matching the amount; and
- streamlining the arbitration procedure and make it binding.
In an example of the kind of effect that industry lobbying can have, the Cabinet diluted this proposal. It excluded, for example, journalists, scriptwriters and directors from the right to be informed once a year where their works are published. It deleted a provision that creators should get separate amounts for every separate exploitation of our work. The "reversion right" would apply only to authors who receive flat-rate payments (Pauschalvergütungen) - possibly excluding the majority of literary authors (who are instead paid royalties on sales of their works).
Screenwriter and producer Fred Breinersdorfer commented that this has been turned into "a law to curb creators' claim to equitable remuneration". The Initiative Urheberrecht - the campaign group uniting representatives of more than 140,000 creators, including both German journalists' unions, "appeals to the Ministries to rework the draft. It is necessary to postpone a decision in Cabinet" until a satisfactory text is found.
Meanwhile in France a draft law put on the Senate table on 1 March makes some improvements to the contract position of musicians (as "performers and producers of phonograms") and of contributors to films. [Update 30 May 2016: this version was passed by the Senate on 25 May: see below]
Several countries are looking at following the German model of charging search engines for use of small snippets and thumbnails, through a new right for the publishers. French legislators have an alternative, with a fee for thumbnail images distributed to photographers through a collecting society.
The Freelance is still trying to understand new laws that guarantee fair payment and provide for collective bargaining by freelances in the Netherlands. [see below]