AEPO-ARTIS Webinar Highlights Crucial Role of CMOs in Cultural and Creative Sector

Why do you need a CMO? “I’m alone” said audiovisual author Jochen Greve. He joined his CMO at a young age to get access to the support he needed to focus on his art: “I need months and years for one film. I don’t have the brain to negotiate during this time, and tech companies are very well organised with very expensive lawyers.” Artist and performer Nacho Vega seconds that experience: “Collectivity and unity is strength. CMOs provide legal solutions to global struggles.”

On Wednesday, March 17th, AEPO-ARTIS partnered with the Society of Audiovisual Authors (SAA) and the Parliament’s Cultural Creators Friendship Group to organise a webinar entitled “Collective management: A safety net for authors and performers.” Speakers, which included performers, authors, MEPs and CMO representatives all highlighted the crucial role of CMOs in supporting and saving the Cultural and Creative Sector (CCS). They also emphasised the need for Member States to properly implement Article 18 of the Copyright Directive, calling on policymakers to include CMOs in their transposition projects.

Across the board, the consensus was clear – CMOs are essential to the livelihood of authors and performers and, ultimately, the welfare of the CCS. Renowned Spanish musician Nacho Garcia Vega highlighted the need for CMOs in helping performers’ collect what they are due: “Performers cannot go to all radio stations and public places to collect what they are owed. Collectivity and unity is strength. CMOs provide legal solutions to global struggles.” Yolanda Schweri, board member for SWISSPERFORM, seconded this argument, noting that “it is impossible for individual right holders to track all the individual uses of their work; that is why remuneration rights exist.”

Besides providing practical solutions to performers in being able to track the use of their work, CMOs are the safeguard for performers in front of their record labels and government institutions. As underlined by Cécile Despringre, Executive Director of the SAA, CMOs assist authors and performers in their contract negotiations and by providing administrative support. Without CMOs, performers are at a clear disadvantage. “Record labels have a lot of well-paid lawyers to support their rights, but authors and performers don’t,” emphasised Jochen Greve, German screenwriter for film and TV. When asked by moderator Gregor Stibernik why remuneration couldn’t just be left to contractual negotiations, Nacho Vega reiterated a poorly known fact: “0,1% of artists around the world can actually make a living with streaming; the middle class in performers has disappeared.” Despite record labels owning 12 out of his 14 very successful main albums, only 4% of his overall income was actually distributed by his labels.

This representation also comes with protection. Performers who would otherwise be afraid of pushing back against producers in negotiations have a more imposing backing: “Artists take the risk of being blacklisted if they go against their record label; CMOs need to defend them,” mentioned Vega. Authors and performers are also reliant on their CMOs to provide them with a voice with lawmakers. They have the resources to track, inform and influence legislative change with the aim of ensuring that performers remain valued and protected in the face of technological or legal advances. “CMOs are the guardians of our rights,” said Vega. Greve and Vega both agreed that their work was too time consuming and that they could not devote the necessary time to advocating, negotiating and performing administrative tasks: “CMOs are important because I’m alone. I need months and years to work on a film and this requires more time than a 9-5 job.”

Following this comprehensive overview of the essential role played by CMOs, all panellists highlighted the importance for Member States to include them in their transposition of Article 18 of the 2019 EU Copyright Directive. Hannes Heide said: “Article 18 is very important because it provides the ability to performers to live by their work; however, the compliance with Article 18 depends fully on the action of Member States.” Indeed, while Article 18 states that authors and performers are due “appropriate and proportionate remuneration” for their work, it does not prescribe a specific mechanism to accomplish this, therefore leaving a risk that some might rely on the already failing contractual system.

Nacho Vega pointed to the successful mechanism operated in Spain– an unwaivable remuneration right with mandatory collective management: “This right functions with a very democratic approach. AIE and AISGE negotiate tariffs directly with platforms on behalf of performers, enabling payments to thousands of performers both in Spain and internationally. This right has to be widely applied; it benefits all consumers and stakeholders.” More information on the Spanish system can be found here.

In the words of German MEP Niklas Nienass, “creators are on the low end of the CCS.” Their livelihood and the survival of the sector depend entirely on how valued and protected they are in the face of technological and legislative change; two attributes that this webinar and panellists highlighted can be secured through the work of Collective Management Organisations. “I joined a CMO at a young age to access the support I needed to focus on my art; it has supported me in legal negotiations and revenue collection but most importantly, they’ve helped me get what I am due for my hard work,” Greve finished.

Watch full webinar here:

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