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 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.
The authorship of films
In most cases, the definition of the author of creative work is
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
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 European Union.
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.
DG Internal Market
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