Sunday 2 October 2011

Audiovisual performers take the stage

Muffin the Mule celebrates an end tounauthorised exploitation of audiovisual performance
Times are looking good for audiovisual performers. They may find it tough when they have to compete commercially against recordings of their performances which they made in their prime, and they may find it even tougher to enforce their rights in individual cases of low-value infringement, but at least their cause is viewed sympathetically in the marbled corridors of Geneva.  Life may not be a treat, but there may be a treaty awaiting them.  According to this World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) media release,
"WIPO Director General Francis Gurry welcomed a decision ... by WIPO’s General Assembly to convene a diplomatic conference in 2012 to agree an international treaty on the rights of performers in their audiovisual performances. The convening of a diplomatic conference signals entry into the final phase of treaty negotiations.

“This is a good day for actors, performers and the international copyright community,” Mr. Gurry said. “While some countries have domestic legislation that grants certain rights to performers in audiovisual works, there is a legal vacuum at the international level [Nature abhors a vacuum -- and so, it seems, does the world's diplomatic IP community]. Performers have not had control over how and when their performances are used abroad, nor any legal right to payment [not just abroad, either ...]. Today’s decision brings us a big step closer to resolving this question.”

In 2000, discussions on a treaty that would shore up the rights of performers in their audiovisual performances made significant progress, with provisional agreement on 19 of the 20 articles under negotiation. Negotiators at the time did not agree on whether [since it's really a matter of contract, not IP?] or how a treaty on performers’ rights should deal with the transfer of rights from the performer to the producer, and suspended the diplomatic conference.

Member states at the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights, meeting in June 2011 in Geneva, agreed compromise wording on the provision on the transfer of rights which made it sufficiently flexible to adapt to different national laws, thereby paving the way for the conclusion of a treaty.

The diplomatic conference will be convened in 2012 and will continue the work of the meeting in 2000. It will be held in Geneva, unless the preparatory committee, which meets in November, decides to accept a proposal by a member state to host the event.

The adoption of a new instrument would strengthen the precarious position of performers in the audiovisual industry by providing a clearer legal basis for the international use of audiovisual productions, both in traditional media and in digital networks. Such an instrument would also contribute to safeguarding the rights of performers against the unauthorized use of their performances in audiovisual media, such as television, film and video [one senses at this point that there will remain little realistic prospect of safeguarding audiovisual performers' rights in the realm of the social media -- but that's a bridge too far right now].

Singers, musicians, dancers and actors have [jolly well not] enjoyed limited international protection for their performances since the adoption of the Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations (the Rome Convention) in 1961. In 1996, the adoption of WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT) fully modernized and updated these standards in respect of sound performances, particularly in relation to digital uses, leaving a void in the international rights' system for audiovisual performers".
This blog will watch and await further developments with interest.

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