World Intellectual Property Organization

WIPO Diplomatic Conference Opens in Beijing to Conclude Treaty on Performers’ Rights in Audiovisual Productions

Beijing/Geneva, June 20, 2012
PR/2012/713

Beijing, June 20 – China State Counselor Liu Yandong and Beijing Deputy Mayor Lu Wei joined WIPO Director General Francis Gurry and over 700 delegates at today’s opening of the Diplomatic Conference on the Protection of Audiovisual Performances here to conclude negotiations on a treaty that will shore up the rights of performers in their audiovisual performances.


Chinese and WIPO Officials at the opening of the
Diplomatic Conference on Audiovisual Performances
(Credit: Yuan Wenming)

Speaking to the opening ceremony, Chinese State Counselor Liu Yandong underlined the importance of innovation in driving economic, social and cultural development. Mrs. Liu said China has made great strides in the area of IP and underlined that her country is committed to IP protection. ‘’The Chinese Government has a very clear attitude and strong position on the protection of IP,” she said. “Last year, China took new steps for and is determined to step up its implementation measures to protect IP. We wish to establish a sound and effective IP strategy and system with a view to unleashing the dynamism of science and technology.’’

The State Counselor stressed the need for IP to strike an appropriate balance among the interests of those who generate IP, users and the general public, and to take into account the specificity of countries in terms of their levels of development. “I believe that as long as we show sufficient respect for the specific circumstances of various nations, properly accommodate the interests of various constituencies, especially those of developing nations, and engage in dialogue and cooperation on an equal and mutually beneficial basis, we will definitely succeed in establishing an international IP protection regime that is balanced, effective, acceptable and beneficial to all parties” she said.

Mr. Gurry said the Diplomatic Conference represents a success of the multilateral system, in particular in the field of intellectual property (IP). “In deciding to convene this Diplomatic Conference here in Beijing, the Member States of WIPO have been able to find a community of interest in the value of the performances of actors,” he said. ”I hope that this week will demonstrate also that there is universality of agreement on the value of those performances and the need to protect them.”

The Conference, which will run through June 26, 2012, also recognizes the contribution of audiovisual performers to society, culture and education,. “Actors and audiovisual performers are fundamental to our capacity to experience the art that an author or composer has created,” Mr. Gurry said. ”Their performances instruct, move and enrich us and are intrinsically worthy of protection.”

The Director General said it is particularly appropriate that the event is taking place in Beijing because of the depth of China’s historical association with the performing arts, as well as the vitality and dynamism of its contemporary theatre, cinema and television. “Theatre, acting and performance in China date back to the Shang Dynasty and enjoy an unbroken historical continuity of development and adaptation, leading to the blossoming contemporary culture that saw China produce over 500 feature films in 2010 and the largest number of television series of any country in the world,” he said.

Mr. Gurry said the digital environment offers both opportunity and risk for audiovisual performances. “Digital technology and the Internet offer the promise of a global audience and the unprecedented availability of creative works,” he said. “At the same time, they make creative works increasingly vulnerable to unfair exploitation. The Beijing Treaty will enable performers to interact with greater confidence with the digital environment. It will remedy a widely perceived injustice of the unequal treatment of audiovisual performances, compared to musical performances, at the international level.”

Mr. Gurry concluded his opening remarks by expressing gratitude to the Government of China for providing the platform to address this deficiency. He urged delegates “to take the final step to the international recognition of the intrinsic worth of audiovisual performances by concluding the Beijing Treaty in the coming days.” He also thanked the Government of China and the Municipality of Beijing for the outstanding preparations for the Conference.

Beijing Deputy Mayor Lu Wei welcomed the broad consensus that led to the convening of the Diplomatic Conference. He said a positive outcome of the meeting would open a new chapter in the history of intellectual property. The Deputy Mayor described his city as the political and cultural capital of China, where economic and social prosperity thrive. He said it is fitting that the Conference is being held in Beijing ”The decision to entrust Beijing to host this Diplomatic Conference is a reflection of both trust in and honor to Beijing, which we will take as an opportunity to speed up our efforts in scientific and technological innovation, as well as in cultural innovation, and to constantly improve our systems for IP creation, management, protection and utilization," he said. The Beijing Municipal Government, he noted, is strongly committed to improving the administration of IP rights protection and ensuring an enabling environment for innovation and creativity to prosper.

The Conference elected Mr. Liu Binjie, Minister of the National Copyright Administration of China (NCAC) and President of the General Administration of Press and Publications as its President. Around 700 delegates from 156 WIPO member states, six inter-governmental organizations, some 40 non-governmental organizations are attending the Conference. These include a number of ministers from the Chinese Government, as well as an additional 12 ministers from other WIPO member states.

In a recorded video statement to the Conference numerous international actors appealed for adoption of the treaty. Meryl Streep, who won the Oscar for best actress this year, said “This is a pivotal time in the performers’ battle for intellectual property protection. 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 unauthorized manipulation of their images or performances.” Appealing to the delegates, she said “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.”

Brazilian actress Sonia Braga said “It is absolutely necessary that WIPO Member States succeed in adopting a Treaty granting actors from all over the world the intellectual property on their audiovisual performances. We trust in you.”

Speaking for actors around the world who are struggling to make a living, Spanish star Javier Bardem said “The actors are part of a great industry of our time. We are the only group of creators that still do not have an International Treaty.” He warned that “an unbalanced industry, whose workers are not adequately protected, will fail sooner or later.”

Canadian actress Ferne Downey spoke in person to delegates saying “It's long past time the right for audiovisual performers to protect our image and get paid for our work was recognized in international law. Conclude this Treaty. Recognize the rights of audio-visual performers. Give us the tools we need to keep telling our shared stories, to keep being players in this digital revolution and global exchange of ideas. It's the right thing to do.”

Renowned Beijing opera performer Mei Baojiu, born to a family of actors and whose father was also a well known opera performer, also urged the Diplomatic Conference to adopt a treaty to protect audiovisual performances. He said performer’s rights have not been given adequate protection and recognition through international instruments. ‘’This is a harm done towards all professional artists. I would like to urge all delegates to fulfill your responsibility on the issue of rights of performers. I urge you to cast your vote to fulfill your responsibility.’’

Background

The Diplomatic Conference on the Protection of Audiovisual Performances is the culmination of over twelve years of negotiations. It is expected to result in a treaty that will strengthen the economic rights of many struggling film actors and other performers and could provide extra income from their work. It will potentially enable performers to share proceeds with producers for revenues generated internationally by audiovisual productions. It will also grant performers moral rights to prevent lack of attribution or distortion of their performances.

Negotiations leading up to the conference, held under the auspices of WIPO's Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights and based on the provisional agreement achieved during the 2000 diplomatic conference, have resulted in a "basic proposal" (all documents available at http://www.wipo.int/meetings/en/details.jsp?meeting_id=25602) that will be submitted to the Beijing meeting.

In 2000, discussions on a treaty made significant progress, with provisional agreement on 19 of the 20 articles under negotiation.  Negotiators at the time did not agree on whether or how a treaty on performers’ rights should deal with the transfer of rights from the performer to the producer, and suspended the diplomatic conference. 

Member states at the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights, meeting in June 2011 in Geneva, agreed on compromise wording for the provision on the transfer of rights which made it sufficiently flexible to adapt to different national laws, thereby paving the way for the conclusion of a treaty. The Beijing diplomatic conference is meant to finalize the work started twelve years ago.

The adoption of a new instrument would strengthen the precarious position of performers in the audiovisual industry by providing a clearer international legal framework for their protection. Notably, for the first time, it would provide performers with protection in the digital environment.  Such an instrument would also contribute to safeguarding the rights of performers against the unauthorized use of their performances in audiovisual media, such as television, film and video.

Singers, musicians, dancers and actors have enjoyed limited international protection for their performances recorded in audiovisual productions since the adoption of the Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations (the Rome Convention) in 1961. In 1996, the adoption of the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT) modernized and updated these standards in respect of sound performances, particularly in relation to digital uses, leaving a void in the international rights' system for audiovisual performers.

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