The stage is set for a new international treaty that would extend the protection for audiovisual performers, granting them both economic and moral rights similar to those already recognized for music performers. Over 500 negotiators from WIPO’s 185 member states, as well as actors, industry and other stakeholder organizations will meet in Beijing from June 20 to 26, 2012 to finalize discussions on an international treaty to update the intellectual property rights of audiovisual performers, such as film and TV actors and actresses. The meeting will be opened on June 20, 2012 at the China World Hotel by WIPO Director General Francis Gurry and high ranking Chinese State and Beijing Municipality officials.
The Diplomatic Conference on the Protection of Audiovisual Performances, convened by WIPO and hosted by the Government of the People’s Republic of China, 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” that will be submitted to the Beijing meeting.
Organization of the diplomatic conference in China was possible thanks to the support of the Government of the People’s Republic of China, the National Copyright Administration of China and the People’s Government of Beijing Municipality which all provided critical support to the WIPO secretariat.
In 2000, discussions on a treaty that would shore up the rights of performers in their audiovisual performances 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 in 1961. In 1996, the adoption of the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty 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.
The traditional method for the negotiation of treaties has been through the holding of a diplomatic conference of plenipotentiaries specifically convened for that purpose. Diplomatic conferences continue to be held, from time to time to negotiate and adopt multilateral treaties of particular significance to the international community.
A WIPO diplomatic conference is typically convoked by a resolution of the WIPO General Assembly. The constitutive resolution of the Assembly defines the object of the conference and the general conditions for participation. Diplomatic conferences are governed by their own rules of procedure and general international law. Accordingly, it is the conference itself which adopts the treaty and a final act.
Upon opening, the diplomatic conference in Beijing will be divided into two committees: Main Committee I and Main Committee II. The first committee’s mandate is to negotiate and agree on all substantive provisions and recommend them for adoption by the plenary. The second committee is charged with negotiating and agreeing on all administrative and final clauses, such as who can join the future treaty and the conditions for its entry into force. Three other side committees are also formed: the Credentials Committee, which verifies credentials of delegations to participate in the conference and to sign the treaty; the Drafting Committee, which ensures the six language versions of the treaty are properly aligned; and the Steering Committee, which includes the chief officers of all the committees and ensures the process is on track.
When all committees finalize their work, the treaty is sent to the plenary for adoption. It is then open for signature. Signing the treaty at the end of a diplomatic conference does not necessarily commit a country to being bound by its provisions. It is however a strong indication of intent by the signatory. The final act – a record that the conference took place – also opens for signature after adoption.