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Brussels, 9th December 2002

Copyright: report highlights successful EU-wide recognition of directors as "authors" of films

All Member States now recognise the principal director of a film or audiovisual work as an author of the work and accord him or her the associated intellectual property rights, in line with the 1992 Directive on the Rental and Lending Right and Certain Related Rights. This has not made it more difficult to distribute and market audiovisual works, despite fears expressed by some Member States when the Directive was adopted. Those are the main conclusions of a report issued today by the European Commission. The objective of the relevant provision in the Directive was to ensure copyright for the principal director as the main creator of a film. Member States remain free to use national law to designate other co-authors.

Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein said: "I am pleased that this important objective has been achieved. Recognising the status of the principal director as the author of a film is logical, fair and good for creativity. Europe has a long tradition of well-known and internationally successful directors and they deserve this recognition. We will continue to keep an eye on the situation to ensure that contractual arrangements over film rights do not hamper the Internal Market, and that the rights of all parties are sufficiently protected."

The authorship of films

The definition of the author of creative work is in most cases not harmonised by EU law. In the cinematographic and audiovisual sector, it is particularly difficult to define who is the main author among the large group of people involved in the making of the work (such as screenplay writers, composers of the film music and directors).

However, given the key creative role of the director, he or she should be regarded as one of the authors. If the Internal Market is to work properly in the audiovisual sector, that intellectual property protection must apply throughout the EU.

The 1992 Council Directive on Rental and Lending Right (92/100/EEC), the 1993 Council Directive on Satellite Broadcasting and Cable Retransmission (93/83/EEC) and the 1993 Council Directive on the Term of Protection of Copyright and Certain Related Rights (93/98/EEC) therefore state explicitly that the principal director of a cinematographic or audiovisual work shall be considered as its author or one of its authors.

The application of EU law

Steps taken at EU level have evidently strengthened the position of the principal director as Member States have gradually modified their legislation accordingly. All Member States now consider the principal director of an audiovisual work as its author or one of its authors.

When the Rental and Lending Right Directive was adopted, some Member States feared that this recognition of the director would make it more difficult to manage the intellectual property rights associated with audiovisual works, and would hamper distribution and marketing by adding to the number of authors whose permission is needed for a work to be shown.

However, those fears have not become reality. The Commission report shows that potential difficulties of this sort are avoided by contractual arrangements adapted to take account of the modified legislation, for example by allowing one right holder to administer rights on behalf of others.

Nevertheless, contractual freedom as a means to organise the distribution and marketing of films is not unlimited. It is still true that Member States' contract law differ from one another, for example concerning the protection of weaker parties to contracts. There is a possibility that differences in national practices could lead to difficulties within the Internal Market. The Commission will therefore continue to monitor the situation.

The full text of the report can be found at:

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