Yesterday's news, but the joy goes on ...

Celebrated as a blogger, Merpel is less
well known as a thespian.  She is depicted
here in her well-reviewed role of
Ophelia in Shakespeare's Hamlet
The IPKat remains slightly puzzled that, while the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) broke the news yesterday that the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances had been successfully concluded [see 1709 Blog here], the British Copyright Council (BCC) should have embargoed its press release on the event till today. Nonetheless he is happy to respect the BCC's wishes.  And while WIPO and the Chinese pat each others' backs for having done a jolly good job at this highly productive Diplomatic Conference, the good folk who actually do the performing -- and the bodies that represent them -- are entitled to do a bit of merrymaking too.  Only the curmudgeons at Techdirt would begrudge them their moment of pleasure, in the mistaken belief [shared by quite a lot of performers, Merpel thinks] that all performers are either Hollywood stars or about to be so.

So what does the BCC say?  Here are some extracts from the press release, expertly cut-and-pasted by a Kat who spurned the initial pdf in favour of something more user-friendly:
"... Within any group of creators and performers there are times when it is right to accord special recognition for achievement. This Conference has enabled the establishment of a Treaty to recognise the work, the commitment and the contribution of actors, singers, dancers, musicians and other audiovisual performers around the world. The Treaty marks a significant landmark within the work of the World Intellectual Property Organisation and brings the recognition for audiovisual performers into line with recognition for performers whose work is fixed in phonograms.

The British Copyright Council welcomes the Treaty and the benefits for performers and rights holders which its existence will provide for the future.

Speaking for those organisations representing actors, musicians, singers and other performers, Andy Prodger, Christine Payne and John Smith gave their reactions.
“This is most welcome news for audiovisual performers around the world. For decades Actors have been second class citizens in comparison to Musicians and Singers whose performances have much greater protection. This Treaty, when adopted into national laws around the world, will give us the chance to be properly rewarded and recognised for our skill and status as artists. The goodwill shown in Beijing now needs to be converted into positive legislation to the benefit of performers in audio visual productions and we particularly call on the UK Government working within the European Union to bring forward this legislation at the earliest opportunity” [Now who, reading the Hargreaves Review and all the debate over orphan works, the digital economy and file-sharing, would ever have guessed that performers' rights would be making a claim to shoot up to the top of the legislative agenda?]
Andy Prodger, Chief Executive, British Equity Collecting Society
"This is a great moment for audio-visual performers all over the world - at last they have an international treaty which will provide recognition of the economic and moral rights of performers when working in film, television and other audiovisual media. But the challenge now is to turn these rights into a reality. This week there has been a great spirit of co-operation and determination amongst governments to achieve this Treaty - I hope this continues in the discussions they will now have with performers in their own countries. Equity is certainly looking forward to being part of discussions to implement the Treaty" [This may be some way off.  The Beijing Treaty must be ratified by 30 countries and/or "certain intergovernmental organizations" before any country is obliged to implement it].
Christine Payne, General Secretary, Equity
“...  for the first time performers will enjoy both economic and moral rights in all of their recorded and live work. We hope that the EU and UK Government ratify and implement the new treaty at the earliest opportunity [Article 5 deals with moral rights and carries this fascinating footnote: "For the purposes of this Treaty and without prejudice to any other treaty, it is understood that, considering the nature of audiovisual fixations and their production and distribution, modifications of a performance that are made in the normal course of exploitation of the performance, such as editing, compression, dubbing, or formatting, in existing or new media or formats, and that are made in the course of a use authorized by the performer, would not in themselves amount to modifications within the meaning of Article 5(1)(ii). Rights under Article 5(1)(ii) are concerned only with changes that are objectively prejudicial to the performer’s reputation in a substantial way. It is also understood that the mere use of new or changed technology or media, as such, does not amount to modification within the meaning of Article 5(1)(ii)". That should circumvent a few spurious legal claims, thinks Merpel]. ...
John Smith, General Secretary, Musician’s Union and President, International Federation of Musicians (FIM)

Andrew Yeates, attended the Diplomatic Conference as the nominated Director for the BCC which is an accredited WIPO observer member and he also worked as part of the official UK delegation at the Conference. Andrew said
"... Representatives of BCC members have given their initial reactions to the Agreement reached and the potential of what has been achieved is clear from the comments from BCC members Equity, BECS and the Musicians Union [which issued its own press release yesterday: a katpat to Les Hurdle for letting the IPKat see it] in this release. I hope that all members of the Council will join me in recognising that the new Treaty ... shows that multilateral agreement on issues affecting copyright and related rights remains a current issue. It is something for today and for the future".
Says the IPKat, the vast majority of performers he comes across work hard, have to practise and refine their skills even when they're not working, receive irregular income for irregular work and have to act as their own debt collectors, and generally have quite a tough time of it. He's pleased that this Treaty at least strikes a positive note in favour of them, though he suspects that it's a poor substitute for the sort of remuneration and security enjoyed by the staff at his local supermarket.

Performing cats here and here
The BCC's favourite Beatles' track here
Yesterday's news, but the joy goes on ... Yesterday's news, but the joy goes on ... Reviewed by Jeremy on Wednesday, June 27, 2012 Rating: 5


  1. After an admittedly cursory examination of the Beijing Treaty it is hard to see anything which the existing Part 2 of the CDPA does not already provide to UK performers. Clearly the wider recognition of these rights by the other signatories is no doubt welcome, but I suspect that the current practice of most major movie and singing stars signing away their economic rights in exchange for a fixed fee will continue to be the norm. When one considers the hundreds if not thousands of performers who may be involved in a major Hollywood film, it is impractical to allow a single performer (say an extra) to have the right to prevent, for instance, that film from being shown on television at some later stage.
    Moreover since the Treaty seeks to make these rights retroactive to cover all existing performances which have been recorded, this will make resolving the orphan work 'mountain' even more problematic than it currently is, unless this provision is explicitly derogated from in national legislation.
    On that basis it is hard to see what the BCC, Musicians' Union and the Equity Collecting Society think is new and worth getting so excited about.

  2. A strange treaty. The definition of artists is so vague that it could cover almost any public appearance. The moral rights give a lot of people the right to object against mash-ups or similar creative re-use of parts of the work. No provisions for orphan works. So, it is strange to see such praise for this treaty.


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