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Law for Business

Knowhow - guidance - precedents

11 DEC 2012

Meryl Streep and Antonio Banderas support new copyright treaty


Audiovisual performers, which could include actors, musicians and dancers that feature on television programmes or films, are to benefit from a new treaty that was concluded at a World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) conference in China on 26 June 2012.

This new treaty (the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances) aims to protect the rights of performers and could provide extra income for performers themselves. Film and television performers do not enjoy the international copyright protections provided to other creators involved, such as writers or producers, who receive payment when their work is sold abroad. The Beijing Treaty aims to address this injustice in international law to some of the core contributors to audiovisual works.

These new international rules (for the contracting parties of WIPO) were supported by actors from around the world, including Oscar-winning American actress Meryl Streep, Spanish actors Antonio Banderas and Javier Bardem and Chinese actor Pu Cunxin. In a video recording of actors from around the world, Meryl Streep urged negotiators to agree on the Beijing Treaty:

"While digital technology creates a wealth of new opportunities for performers, it also significantly increases the risk of performers loosing control over their very own work product, through the unauthorised manipulation of their image or performances."

"That's why I urge you to include an audiovisual right in a new International Treaty. In the same way that writers and composers depend upon royalty income for their survival in the long term, performers around the world must benefit, as well, from income from the exploitation of their work."

Javier Bardem also strongly supported the adoption of the Beijing Treaty asking for similar rights for actors to those granted to scriptwriters, directors and musicians:

"We are the only group of creators that still do not have an International Treaty," he added.

Specifically, the Beijing Treaty provides performers with the following rights:

  • Moral rights: To claim to be identified as the performer of his audiovisual  performance (if appropriate) and to object to any distortion, mutilation or other modification of his performance that would be prejudicial to his reputation (if relevant);
  • Economic rights: The exclusive right to control the broadcasting and communication to the public of an "unfixed performance" and right to fix the unfixed performance;
  • Right of reproduction: The exclusive right to control the direct or indirect reproduction of audiovisual works of their performances;
  • Right of distribution: The exclusive right to control the making available to the public of the original and copies of audiovisual works of their performances through sale or other transfer of ownership;
  • Right of rental: The exclusive right of controlling the commercial rental to the public of the original and copies of audiovisual works of their performances, if the commercial rental has led to widespread copying of such works materially impairing the exclusive right of reproduction of performers
  • Right of making fixed performances available: The exclusive right to control the making available to the public of audiovisual works of their performances, by wire or wireless means, in order for the public to be able to access the works from a place and a time they choose; and
  • Right of broadcasting and communication to the public: The exclusive right to control when audiovisual works of their performances are broadcast and communicated to the public (subject to national law which may replace this right with a right to equitable remuneration for direct or indirect use of those works for broadcasting or communicating to the public).

The Beijing Treaty will come into force once it has been ratified by 30 countries or intergovernmental organisations.

For more information on copyright and intellectual property laws more generally please contact Dennis Lee or Emily Timmins in the Intellectual Property team or telephone 01392 688 688.

Disclaimer: This information has been prepared by Michelmores LLP as a general guide only and does not constitute legal advice on any specific matter and should not be relied upon as such. We recommend that you seek professional advice before taking action. No liability can be accepted by us for any action taken or not taken as a result of this information.

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