Social Justice in a Freelance World 4: Authors' rights and the global dimension

EFJ conference, Brussels, November 1999

Authors' rights and the global dimension


Francoise Derrollepot argued that a common international strategy on authors' rights was needed. Nicola Frank provided an update on the next World Trade Organisation (WTO) round. Mike Holderness argued that audiovisual and e-commerce should not be separated.


  • EFJ/IFJ member unions should contact their governments to convince the European Union not to compromise on public service broadcasting or on authors' rights at the WTO talks in Seattle and thereafter

Authors' rights

Francoise Derrollepot of the Syndicat National des Journalistes (SNJ) said that photographers were the pioneers in many freelance areas and had more of a business mentality than freelance journalists. Moral rights were extremely important to photographers. Photographers had fought to protect the right to have a byline and the © symbol with each photo, and to establish the need for contracts and minimum pay rates. Photographers in France had created SAFE, to manage photographers' payments for electronic use collectively. SAFE negotiated on behalf of about 1000 authors/photographers and had negotiated reciprocal agreements with collecting societies in other countries. Derrollepot stressed the danger of the concept of "a collective work", which the publishers wanted but which excluded freelances' rights. Another dangerous development, advocated by Bill Gates' CORBIS, was that the person doing the digitalisation of photographs should receive part of the authors' rights revenue. Each transmission should be individually authorised and remunerated and limited in time and place. In conclusion, Derrollepot stressed the need for a common international strategy. In the discussion, the meeting agreed that Francoise Derrollepot should write a paper with her proposals and send it to the EFJ/IFJ.

The world trade round

Nicola Frank, European Broadcasting Union, described the possible impact on the audiovisual sector of the new round of the World Trade Organisation in Seattle, in November. The WTO members were due to decide on the scope of the next round and for the first time the EU would negotiate on behalf of its 15 member states. The Uruguay Round concluded in December 1993 introduced the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). These were in addition to the GATT Agreement on Trades and Goods. Audiovisual services fall under the GATS. The Uruguay Round did not result in a "cultural exception" but in the so-called "carve-out" of the audiovisual sector. For the new round, if audiovisual services were understood in a narrow sense, the audiovisual "carve out" would be limited to traditional cinema, radio and television. One important question was whether new audiovisual services delivered on demand could be regarded as electronic commerce. Nicola Frank listed some other issues that could have an impact on the audiovisual landscape. If existing GATT rules on subsidies were applied to GATS, and therefore to audiovisual services, most support schemes (such as licence fees for public sector broadcasting) would be called into question. The idea of "sustainable development" in the cultural sector had been launched. This could be used to introduce a cultural or audiovisual clause into the GATS. Its aim would be to ensure that the cultural sector could continue to meet the democratic, social and cultural needs of each society.

Protecting authors' rights

Mike Holderness of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and EFJ Authors' Rights Expert Group (AREG), said the main concern at the moment was the authors' rights regime in the new media, which encouraged globalisation. It was dangerous to make a separation between audiovisual and e-commerce and this should be resisted. The absence of moral rights in the American and Anglo-Saxon countries led to a low-quality press. If newspapers were owned by global corporations, a global monoculture was easily in sight. There was a strong argument for simple understandable rules, in which it was important to distinguish that authors' rights were a human right, and copyright a commodity. Holderness emphasised that the voice of those who make the content is far too little heard, especially with regard to the introduction of a new publishing media. The <cite>Guardian</cite> newspaper agreement at least included some recognition of authors' rights and was therefore a major step forward in the UK. Sweden: Arne König said the Swedish Union of Journalists, with the collecting society, was about to win a court case against two papers, which had put illegal material on their website. EU: Renate Schröder briefed the meeting on the state of play on the draft directive on copyright and related rights in the information society, which was pending at the Council of Ministers. She stressed that it was important to lobby the new MEPs on the Legal Committee on the importance of authors' rights. The Authors' Rights Summit to take place in London, 14-16 June 2000, was a major event to further the campaign on strong authors' rights at a global level. Report by Ros Bayley