Diplomatic Conference on the Protection of Audiovisual Performances

Opening Ceremony

Beijing, June 20 to 26, 2012

Francis Gurry, Director General, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

Your Excellency Liu Yandong, State Councillor
Your Excellency Liu Binjie, Minister for National Press Administration and Copyright
Your Excellency Lu Wei, Deputy Mayor of Beijing
Honorable Ministers
Distinguished Delegates

It is a great pleasure and a privilege for me to participate in this Opening Ceremony and to extend to all delegations a warm welcome to the Diplomatic Conference on the Protection of Audiovisual Performances.

At the outset, let me thank, on behalf of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the Government of the People’s Republic of China for hosting this Diplomatic Conference. We are grateful to China for its generosity in sponsoring both the Conference and the participation in it of so many delegates. We are likewise grateful for the excellence of the arrangements that have been made. A large team of professionals, including many volunteers, have worked ceaselessly to make the Conference a reality. I thank, in particular, Minister Liu Binjie and his team at the National Copyright Agency of China (NCAC), as well as my own colleagues at WIPO who have worked over the past months with the NCAC and other Chinese authorities.

Let me extend our thanks also to the City of Beijing for welcoming us into this vibrant and historic capital.

There are many reasons why this gathering is important. In the first place, it is an affirmation of the relevance of multilateralism, in general, and of multilateral rule-making in the field of intellectual property, in particular. We are meeting at a time when multilateral agreement is a precious commodity. The complexity of interconnection and interdependence, as well as the great diversity of conditions and levels of development prevailing in the world, make it extremely difficult to identify issues which enjoy a community of interest and on which there is universality of agreement. In deciding to convene this Diplomatic Conference, the Member States of WIPO have been able to find that community of interest in the value of the performances of actors. 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.

Actors and audiovisual performers are fundamental to our capacity to experience the art that an author or composer has created. They are, as their ancient Greek name indicated, interpreters, who mediate between the creative work and the audience. Their performances instruct, move and enrich us and are intrinsically worthy of protection.

It is particularly appropriate that the value of performers should be recognized in a treaty concluded in China, both because of the depth of China’s historical association with theatre and performance and because of 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.

It has been a long road to Beijing for performers. At the revision conference of the Berne Convention in 1928 in Rome, concern was expressed that the Berne Convention did not adequately protect performers, and a study was commissioned. It is not surprising that the rights of performers became an important issue in the late 1920s. The preceding three decades had seen the development of an entire industry around silent films. For the first time in history, visual performances were being recorded, reproduced and distributed to audiences, both domestically and internationally. A single, recorded performance now had the power to influence tens of thousands of people, instead of the few hundred that were able to be present at a live performance. Given the initial impetus that was provided by silent movies, it is fitting that we should conclude a treaty to protect performers’ rights in the same year that the Academy Award for the best leading role was awarded to Jean Dujardin, the actor of the silent film The Artist.

Like all creative works, audiovisual performances face both opportunity and risk in the digital environment. Digital technology and the Internet offer the promise of a global audience and the unprecedented availability of creative works. 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 multilateral level. We are grateful to the Government of China for its leadership in providing the platform to address this deficiency. I urge you all 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.