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AVACI in South Korea - The second International Congress of Audiovisual Authors was held

Last May 17, 18, and 19, the second edition of the Annual International Congress of AVACI – Audiovisual Authors International Confederation, was held-. The encounter took place at the Novotel Ambassador Hotel in Seoul, South Korea. The Korean Guild of Audiovisual Directors (DGK - Directors Guild of Korea) was the host society of the event, which gathered Directors, Screenwriters, Audiovisual technicians, and producers from around the world, as well as legislators and lawyers specializing in authors’ rights. Recognized filmmakers, such as Park Chan-Wook, Bong Joon Ho, and Hirokazu Koreeda, among others, also adhered to the Congress. The meeting had simultaneous translation into English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, and Russian, and it was performed through the zoom platform. Due to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic in 2021, the first edition of the AVACI Congress had to be conducted virtually then. This edition had a historical character since it was the first on-site meeting of an International Confederation of Audiovisual Authors gathered for the recognition of their authors’ rights.

Representatives from the societies and federations of the five continents were present at the Congress in a unique encounter.

Horacio Maldonado, Secretary General of FESAAL, founding member, and coordinator of the AVACI Executive Committee, was in charge of opening the event and, in such instance, he explained “how the life of audiovisual creators changes with the possibility to access to the right of remuneration for the exhibition of their works, and how a collective management society can benefit them and provide good support for the development of their profession”. Moreover, by way of introduction, Klemen Dvornik, President of AIPA (Slovenia), stated that “it is really important that Authors around the world are not discriminated at their places of origin as Authors. During these days, we will try to listen to us and find solutions”, he added. Kyudong Min, President of DGK, thanked those attending the Congress for being present and mentioned that Korean Audiovisual Authors “feel lonely since we are not protected by the system that should protect us”, but the support provided at the Congress “can carry the message that Writers and Directors in Korea are not alone”. Yoon Jung Lee, Vice-president of DGK, thanked for the support granted by AVACI to carry out the Congress in her city, and highlighted that “for the movement in Korea to succeed, we will need more support from all of you”.

On the first day, a video sent by Yoo Jungju, an attendee of the 21st National Assembly of South Korea, was shown, in which she talked about the international success of audiovisual productions in her country nowadays. “This has been possible thanks to the effort, work, and dedication of so many Audiovisual Authors from Korea”, she stated. She also announced the recent presentation of a draft bill to protect the rights of Korean audiovisual creators: “It is really important to protect and compensate our Authors”, she declared and expressed the intention to “create an equitable remuneration system in Korea”.

Woo Chul Lee, Korean Director and member of the executive council of DGK, made a presentation on the past and present of the audiovisual industry in his country. Likewise, a statement jointly signed by AVACI, DGK, and SGK –Screenwriters Guild of Korea-, was read in which the government and the national assembly were asked to protect their audiovisual creators through a fair remuneration system. On behalf of the law firm Yulchon, the lawyer Yong Min Lee made a presentation on the current state of authors’ rights in his country.

Adriana Saldarriaga, the legal counselor of DASC and REDES Colombia, and a member of the Legal and Technical Committee of AVACI recommended Korea follow the steps of the Colombian experience from the remuneration right Law Pepe Sánchez and explained that in her country, the law provides that “authors retain a remuneration right that is inalienable, imprescriptible, non-negotiable, and that must be paid by those who exploit the work economically”. Horacio Maldonado declared that “what we are saying here is that a remuneration right law is required within the Korean territory. And we are present here to provide global support to such law”.

Luis Mangiavillano, a member of the Legal and Technical Committee of AVACI and authors’ rights lawyer, explained how the territorial system of remuneration rights operates, through which each country collects the material coming from other countries that are transmitted and exploited within their territory. Mario Mitrotti, President of DASC Colombia, sent a video message in which he declared: “We would like to welcome Korean Directors and Writers so that they struggle for their authors’ rights. Welcome to AVACI”.

Alexandra Cardona Restrepo, a member of the Executive Committee of AVACI and President of REDES Colombia, congratulated “colleague Directors and Writers of the Korean audiovisual, who has been promoting the creation of a collective management society”, and declared that “they are about to give an extraordinary twist to the meaning of the authors’ right in Korea”. She commented that “the existence of a management society which works by and for creators changes the life of authors”, and this “has a good impact on the social development of a country”. Then, she presented an audiovisual document on the constitution of REDES as a collective management society and the consequent achievement of the Pepe Sánchez Law. “I hope this may serve as encouragement and compelling reasons to keep fighting in order to receive a fair remuneration for the communication of our works”, she added.

Laza Razanajatovo, Director from Madagascar and President of the Pan African Alliance APASER, talked about the audiovisual authors’ right situation in Africa, the beginning of his society, about the project to become a federation, and about its work to restore African films with the collaboration of the director Martin Scorsese. Yoon Jung Lee presented the DGK campaign for fair remuneration for Korean Audiovisual Authors. “We need to have a cultural policy that may protect the rights of creators”, she said.

The Screenwriter and President of SGK – Screenwriters Guild of Korea, Kim Byung-in explained the operation of Korean Audiovisual Authors organizations and the work recently performed, as well as the differences in the achievements made by the musicians society in his country and the possibility to become a collective management society. He also mentioned the experience with “The Squid Games”, the most watched series in the history of the Netflix platform, the creators of which have not perceived a remuneration consistent with its spread. “Netflix does not provide remunerations for the directors of films and that has been discussed for years”, he said.

Hrvoje Hribar, General Director of DHFR (Croatia), talked about the perspective of European societies concerning large streamers, and about the difficult task of “making platforms respect our right to receive remuneration in an abstract field such as the Internet”. Anja Unger, Audiovisual Director and member of LA SCAM (France), considered that “the field of defense for authors’ rights is a constant battle”.

Janine Lorente, an independent consultant specializing in audiovisual authors’ rights, presented a document on the importance of obtaining protection for the rights of Directors and Screenwriters and stated this should be framed in the legislation. “Directors and Screenwriters often assign their rights to production companies all over the world –she explained, and it is really hard for them to retain their rights so that then, after the production of the cinematographic work, they can get royalties or some sort of remuneration”. Through the document, she explained the connection between the existence of a legislative framework and the payment to the Authors

With regard to the current situation of authors’ rights in Latin America, Germán Gutiérrez, lawyer and member of the Legal and Technical Committee of AVACI, referred to the recent achievements of Chile, Colombia, Uruguay, and Argentina, and to the recent collections of authors’ rights performed in the latter for the material spread by audiovisual content platforms. “We are well positioned in this reality”, he said. He also mentioned the movement of the National Audiovisual Space and its current push towards a new film law in Argentina. Sylvia Palma, General Secretary of GEDAR and member of the Executive Committee of AVACI, reviewed the history of GEDAR and its establishment as a collective management society; and explained the current situation concerning streaming platforms: “with no right to compensation, the Screenwriter receives remuneration when he/she delivers the work to the producer, and retains no link with such work. No additional rights are left for the Screenwriter”, she claimed. Sylvio Back, Secretary General of DBCA and member of the Executive Committee of AVACI, celebrated the performance of the Congress: “it is a moment of victory in our struggle for authors’ rights”. “I hereby grant the greatest solidarity to Authors from South Korea concerning the institutionalization and recognition of their rights”, he added before doing an optimistic review of the achievements made as regards audiovisual authors’ rights worldwide.

During the round table “The world of Audiovisual Authors”, Martijn Winkler, from DDG, Dutch Directors Guild, shared his experience in current negotiations with streamers platforms, and his vision regarding the position of the Director and of the Screenwriter in the media and in the industry. “We are worth economically and we have the right to defend that”, he commented. Danilo Šerbedžija, President of DHFR Croatia, talked about the negotiation possibilities of Directors in his country, and of their economic relationship with producers. Jasna Nanut, Vice-president of DHFR, talked about the situation of women creators in the industry of her country, while Hyujin Park from DGK talked about the creative freedom of the Korean audiovisual nowadays. Vianney Baudeu, from LA SCAM, asserted that “collective management is the best way to ensure remuneration”.

Shahira Tajaddin, Screenwriter and Member of the Executive Council of AzDG, reviewed the dealing of the last twenty years as regards audiovisual authors’ rights, she outlined some differences between the laws of Azerbaijan and the laws of other countries and explained the operation of her collective management society. “We have been able to restore the damaged reputation of Authors. For such reason, we are very proud”, she concluded.

Daniel Di Napoli, IT Director of DAC Argentina, provided a detailed presentation of AVSYS, the open code Operating System distributed without charge for every member of AVACI, created for joint management of audiovisual authors’ rights among management societies. The presentation included a live demonstration. Moreover, both Di Napoli and Horacio Maldonado replied to questions about the possible uses of the system according to the needs of each user management society.

In the first round table of the Legal and Technical Committee of AVACI, Gregor Stibernik, moderator of the panel and Executive Director of AIPA, Slovenia, highlighted the importance of joint and global work among collective management societies, users, and institutions; and elaborated on the collection methods, the joint work with societies from other countries and with musicians and screenwriters, as well as the different country criteria to define the co-authorship of a film, among other issues. The lawyers Adriana Saldarriaga (DASC-REDES Colombia) and María Laura Garateche (Argentores Argentina), talked about how to achieve a correct distribution of authors’ rights, according to the types of agreements and contracts that Audiovisual Authors enter into with large companies, as well as the monitoring of works recordings and dissemination.

Carmen Guarini, Audiovisual Director and Vice-president of DAC, presented the round table “AVACI Gender”, on gender inequality in the audiovisual industry. “Every time we address the issue of the place women Authors occupy in the audiovisual world nowadays, we cannot help talking about gender inequality”, Guarini asserted. Sylvia Palma explained the situation of the cinematographic industry in Brazil, where between 1995 and 2018, 92% of the production was developed by men in leading roles. “We signed the parity letter in 2001 but we are very far from parity”, Anja Unger stated before mentioning other French initiatives in the struggle for gender equality that have not altered the privileged situation of the male wing in the industry. Dong Ryung-Kim, Director and member of the Board of DGK, showed through figures the gender differences in the audiovisual industry in Korea nowadays. She explained that the bigger the budget of a film, the lower the percentage of female participation, and highlighted that the number of women who directed films without earning a profit, doubles the number of men in the same situation. “There is a structural inequality in the cinematographic industry”, she added. Alexandra Cardona Restrepo expressed “I am not at all surprised about what you said because in Colombia we live the same”, and she assessed that figures in her country are even less favorable for women. The table concluded with the proposal to create a working group on gender in AVACI.

Henrique de Freitas Lima, Audiovisual Director, lawyer, and President of DBCA began his exposition by declaring that “the dream of having a rights collection entity in Brazil was made possible thanks to DAC”, referring to international cooperation among management societies. Thereafter, he reviewed the recent history of the legislation in his country as regards audiovisual authors’ rights, and explained the current situation concerning collection and distribution, both in law and in practice. He also asserted that the current goal of his work is that users “can come and pay without us having to be involved in a legal dispute that can take more than ten years”.

During the second round table of the Legal and Technical Committee, the issue regarding the growth of streaming content platforms was discussed as well as their impact on the collection made by management societies, and the danger of the buyout clauses. “I would not be sitting here if there were not a well-established right to remuneration in Chile”, Felipe Schuster asserted, lawyer and member of ATN, in whose country the Ricardo Larraín Law has been in force since 2017. Schuster explained that this law benefits producers since it keeps their economic rights on audiovisual works which allow them to exploit works commercially, while it takes Authors to claim their remuneration from other actors, such as users and broadcasting channels of works. He added that OTT platforms “are the future”, but “the right to remuneration is also that future that will accompany these digital platforms”. Luis Mangiavillano provided figures on the collection made by on-demand platforms and the collection goals for Directors and Screenwriters.

The Minutes of the first AVACI Congress were approved by unanimous vote, an alliance between REDES Colombia and APASER was announced, and the creation of an AVACI office in Slovenia was approved, as well as a regional AVACI office for Asia located in the offices of DGK, and a regional Latin American center based in Colombia. Moreover, APASER was granted the character of a central office of AVACI in Africa, and the creation of a regional AVACI office for Asia- Pacific was proposed to DGK. The next meeting of the Executive Council of AVACI was also set to be held in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

The union of Audiovisual Authors and their joint work was realized in a Congress of uncontested success. A crucial historical step in the struggle of creators worldwide toward the recognition of their rights.