London entertainment law firm Crefovi is delighted to bring you this music & entertainment law blog, to provide you with forward-thinking and insightful information on hot business and legal issues in the music and entertainment sectors.
London entertainment & media law firm advises, in particular, the fashion and luxury goods sectors, the music sector, film sector, art sector & high tech sector.
We support our clients, who all work in the creative industries, in London, Paris and globally, in finding the best solutions to their various legal issues relating to business law, either on contentious or non-contentious matters.
Annabelle Gauberti, founding partner of London entertainment and media law firm for the creative industries Crefovi, is also the president of the International association of lawyers for creative industries (ialci). This association is instrumental in providing very high quality seminars, webinars & brainstorming sessions on legal & business issues to which the creative industries are confronted.
Crefovi has a roster of music clients, ranging from music artists to record labels, and is a regular attendee of, and speaker at, entertainment business events, such as MIDEM, MaMa, SXSW, Comic Con, the Berlinale and EFM, the Cannes Film Festival & seminars organised by AIM, BPI, MPA and SACEM.
London entertainment law firm Crefovi believes that, due to exponential streaming of entertainment content, the music and film industries have radically and irrevocably changed in the last five years and that it is time for the entertainment sector to take stock and foster mutually beneficial partnerships between the music and film world, high tech companies and famous brands making their mark in the consumer goods & retail arena. Crefovi is there to support its entertainment clients in achieving this delicate balance in a fast-evolving environment.
How to lawfully broadcast your soundtracks in bars, restaurants, hotels & other public spaces, from France | Music law firm CrefoviCrefovi : 25/11/2019 8:00 am : Articles, Consumer goods & retail, Copyright litigation, Entertainment & media, Hospitality, Intellectual property & IP litigation, Internet & digital media, Music law, Outsourcing
When a France-based sound system provider reproduces some phonograms on soundtracks, in order to propose such soundtracks for broadcasting in public spaces such as restaurants, bars, hotels, or shops, he/she needs to have a proper strategy in place, to lawfully implement his/her business plan. Especially when it comes to fostering useful and productive relationships with French, as well as foreign, collecting rights societies. How can this legal compliance effort be done in the most time and cost efficient manner, to assist the developing business of any France-based budding sound system provider?
1. Registering as a user-reproducer with both SPPF and SCPP
There are four neighbouring rights collecting societies, in France, as far as music neighbouring rights are concerned, as follows:
- SPPF, which is a neighbouring rights collecting society for phonogram producers that are independent labels only;
- ADAMI, which is a neighbouring rights collecting society for artists and performers and
- SPEDIDAM, which is a neighbouring rights collecting society for session musicians and vocalists.
Any new sound system provider based in France needs to be aware of such neighbouring rights collecting societies, since some may come knock at his/her door, in order to collect royalties.
Indeed, which neighbouring rights collecting societies may have a legal, and financial, claim against a France-based sound system provider?
A distinction needs to be drawn, between:
- neighbouring rights’ royalties collected on the basis of broadcasting phonograms, and
- neighbouring rights’ royalties collected on the basis of reproducing phonograms.
As far as neighbouring rights’ royalties collected on the basis of broadcasting phonograms are concerned, the French intellectual property code (“IPC“) provides that 50% of the royalties paid by users (i.e. sites which broadcast phonograms, such as public spaces, TV channels, radio channels, etc.) are directed to the right owner of the phonogram, while the remaining 50% goes to artists-performers, session musicians and vocalists. Article L. 214-1 of the IPC provides for the payment of neighbouring rights’ royalties relating to the right to broadcast, on the basis of scales which are, themselves, provided for in article L. 214-4 of the IPC. These royalties paid in relation to the right to broadcast are entitled “fair remuneration” (“rémunération équitable“) and are distributed to phonogram producers via SCPP and SPPF, to artists-performers via ADAMI, as well as to session musicians and vocalists via SPEDIDAM.
However, as far as neighbouring rights’ royalties collected on the basis of reproducing phonograms are concerned, these are paid by users (i.e. sound system providers who provide sound via physical media, automated broadcasting systems, or satellite/ADSL) to phonogram producers only. Article L. 213-1 of the IPC provides for the payment of such neighbouring rights’ royalties relating to the reproduction right. These royalties are distributed to phonogram producers solely, via SCPP and SPPF.
Therefore, a France-based sound system provider, who reproduces phonograms on soundtracks which will then be broadcasted in the sites of his/her clients (i.e. bars, hotels, restaurants, retail stores, lifts, etc., collectively referred to as “Clients’ Sites“), located either in France and/or, for example, in the United Kingdom, will have a statutory obligation to negotiate, finalise and sign a common interest general agreement (“contrat général d’intérêt commun“) between a user sound system provider, and each one of the neighbouring rights’ collecting societies for phonogram producers solely, i.e. SCPP and SPPF. Following the execution of such agreements, the sound system provider will pay SCPP and SPPF some royalties due under the right of reproduction of phonograms.
Clients’ Sites, i.e. public places in which the soundtracks will be broadcasted via physical media, automated broadcasting systems, or satellite/ADSL, will pay neighbouring rights’ royalties pursuant to the right to broadcast phonograms, to SCPP, SPPF, ADAMI and SPEDIDAM.
2. On the agreements to be entered into, between users-sound system providers, and SCPP and SPPF respectively
The templates of common interest general agreements, between users-sound system providers, and each neighbouring rights’ collecting societies for phonogram producers, i.e. SCPP and SPPF respectively, are freely available on their websites (together, the “Agreements“).
Key points to note, in relation to the Agreements, are that:
- there is some leeway while negotiating with SCPP and SPFF the terms of the Agreements, before they are finalised;
- SCPP owns 77% of the social repertoire of phonograms in France, while SPPF owns 23% of the social repertoire of phonograms registered in France, and these prorata numeris are set out in the calculation formula used to determine the amount of the royalty owed under the right of reproduction, as explained below;
- both SCPP and SPPF have entered into reciprocal agreements with the UK neighbouring rights’ collecting society PPL, which implies that, a priori, it is not needed that a France-based sound system provider enters into a similar contract than the Agreements, with PPL, even if his/her soundtracks are broadcasted on Clients’ Sites located in the United Kingdom;
- both SCPP and SPPF warrant and represent that the phonogram producers, members of their respective social repertoires, have obtained prior authorisation from artists-performers, session musicians and vocalists, to the reproduction of each of the phonograms registered in their social repertoires, in compliance with article L. 212-3 of the IPC;
- the annual turnover, exclusive of tax, generated by the sound system provider, will be the sole amount taken into account by SCPP and SPPF, when computing the royalty due under the right of reproduction;
- the formula to calculate the royalty is equal to ((annual turnover excl. tax * 15%) * 23%) for SPPF, where 23% represents the prorata numeris applicable to SPPF, as explained above;
- the formula to calculate the royalty is equal to ((annual turnover excl. tax * 15%) * 77%) for SCPP, where 77% represents the prorata numeris applicable to SCPP, as explained above;
- both SCPP and SPPF have put in place some guaranteed minimums, for royalties, depending on the number of phonograms reproduced on a Client’s Site per year; which amounts must be set out in the Agreements;
- SCPP requests the sound system provider to pay a royalties’ deposit, while SPPF does not request any deposit;
- sound system providers have strenuous reporting obligations, as they need to send to SCPP and SPPF, on a regular basis, a filled-out excel spreadsheet, which sets out all the data to be reported, in relation to each one of the phonograms reproduced on their soundtracks, which belong to the respective social repertoires of SCPP and SPPF;
- soundtracks, as well as automated broadcasting systems, must allow for phonogram protection tools, such as digital rights management tools, which protect phonograms from unauthorised copy and
- data about phonograms can be traced and found in the databases of SCPP and SPPF, in particular their IRSC numbers.
SCPP and SPPF legal teams are useful to better understand the Agreements, as well as to negotiate, possibly customise, and then finalise such Agreements.
To conclude on this note, neighbouring rights’ royalties that any France-based sound system provider must pay represent 15% of his/her annual turnover, exclusive of tax.
What about any eventual royalties on copyright?
3. Relationships between users – sound system providers and SACEM-SDRM
Sound system providers do not have any statutory obligation to register with SACEM, i.e. the French music copyright collecting society, or to the “Société pour l’administration du droit de reproduction mécanique des auteurs” (« SDRM »).
Indeed, Clients’ Sites will pay royalties to SACEM and SDRM, relating to public performance rights and mechanical reproduction rights, provided for in article L. 122-4 of the IPC, through a representation agreement entered into by the authors, their beneficial owners as well as SACEM and SDRM, pursuant to article L. 132-18 of the IPC.
For example, a restaurant located in Paris will pay an annual fixed price exclusive of tax of 1,783.69 euros, pursuant to the royalties due under the public performance rights and the mechanical reproduction rights of the musical compositions of authors-composers registered with SACEM and SDRM.
Therefore, there is no obligation for a sound system provider to register with SACEM, in order to pay any royalties due under the right to reproduction, since his/her Clients’ Sites located in France will pay such royalties, which are included in the annual fixed price exclusive of tax, that they will directly pay to SACEM and SDRM.
However, SACEM and SDRM recommend that professional sound system providers share their digital declarative forms (i.e. the reporting data on each phonogram which needs to be set out on an excel spreadsheet provided by SCPP and SPPF) with them. This way, SACEM and SDRM can make a realistic and exact sharing of the rights due under the mechanical reproduction, because they have the accurate information relating to each phonogram and musical composition reproduced on a soundtrack, which is then broadcasted in each Client’s Site located in France. So SACEM is currently putting together a charter, for the attention of professional sound system providers, in order to educate them on the need to report about the musical compositions which have been reproduced, to SACEM.
As far as Clients’ Sites located in the United Kingdom are concerned, SACEM has entered into a reciprocity agreement with the UK music copyright collecting society, PRS, in order to ensure that royalties collected by PRS in the name and on behalf of SACEM, be then sent to SACEM as soon as possible, for distribution to the appropriate authors and their beneficial owners, all members of SACEM.
To conclude, setting up a profitable sound system provider business in France comes with a few hoops and hurdles, from a regulatory standpoint. However, if these intricacies are rightly tackled, through appropriate software solutions (especially to deal with the strenuous reporting obligations on each phonogram reproduced on each soundtrack) as well as tactical and effective legal advice, nothing should come in the way of any savvy and business-minded sound system provider because he/she will have set up constructive and mutually beneficial relationships with French collecting rights societies.
How to break into the French film music market: leveraging available film rebates and tax credits in France to your advantageCrefovi : 03/06/2019 8:00 am : Articles, Banking & finance, Copyright litigation, Emerging companies, Employment, compensation & benefits, Entertainment & media, Gaming, Intellectual property & IP litigation, Internet & digital media, Music law
Many music composers want to break into the French film market, which is known the word over for its steady production stream of art films, as well as its “cultural exception”, aimed at protecting films with a French touch.
What is the state of play? What avenues can music composers explore, in order to be retained as part of the below-the-line crew on French film productions?
1. Understanding the dynamics of the French film market: a “how-to” guide for film music composers
In 2012, Vincent Maraval, one of the founders of top dog French production and distribution company Wild Bunch, published a column in Le Monde entitled “French actors are paid too much!“, which got a lot of attention. In substance, Maraval decried a doomed system, in which the French above-the-line personnel (such as the director, the screenwriter and the producers) and, in particular, French actors, were benefiting from inflated salaries and remunerations, while the receipts made by French theaters on such French film productions had gone down 10 times in the last year or so.
To prove his point, he cited the payment scale for French film stars (such as Vincent Cassel, Jean Reno, Marion Cotillard, Gad Elmaleh, Guillaume Canet, Audrey Tautou, Léa Seydoux), ranging from 500,000 to 2 millions euros on French film productions, while the same actors command salaries of only 50,000 to 200,000 euros when they work on American film productions. Apparently, French actors are among the best paid in the world, even ahead of most American movie stars. Maraval cited as culprit the direct subsidy system (pre-sales by public TV channels, advances on receipts, regional funding), to which French cinema is eligible, but most importantly the indirect subsidy system (mandatory investment by private TV channels).
Seven years down the line, Maraval’s statement still rings true as nothing has changed: the above-the-line crew, in particular French actors, still syphons most of the available budget of French film productions. Indeed, in order to obtain financing from TV channels – which upper middle class managements despise the pleb’s taste for reality TV shows such as “La Star Ac”, yet remain slaves to it – French film producers must belly dance in front of, and prove to, the likes of France Télévisions and TF1, that bankable and locally popular French actors are attached to their film productions.
The takeaway for film music composers, who are all part of the below-the-line crew, and therefore come after French actors in the pecking order, is that the financial pot is tight, on French film productions, as far as they are concerned.
Therefore, what is the margin of negotiation of film music composers, when schmoozing their way with French film directors and producers, to get a job on set?
2. Being able to sell yourself as a film music composer aspiring to do work on French film projects
As brilliantly explained by Anita Elberse in her book “Blockbusters”, the entertainment business works around a “winners take all” economic model, where only the 1% thrive. The situation described by Maraval above is a gleaming example of that, where French actors command salaries which are even higher than those paid to most American movie stars on Hollywood film projects. As a result, French film projects are uber costly, because not only do producers have to allocate at least 70% of their budget to salaries paid to fickle French film stars, but also production costs in France are very high (due to labour costs, in particular prohibitively expensive social security contributions, a 20% standard VAT rate, stiffly work regulations, etc.).
As a result, music composers are left to fend for themselves when pitching for work on French film productions. They can only count on their standout back catalogues of music compositions and recordings, to advertise their skillsets, as well as their own gifts of the gab, to become part of the chosen few.
Indeed, while all French actors, with the notable exception of Jean Dujardin who is managed by his own brother and lawyer, are represented by a handful of French agents, who have total and absolute control on the talent acting pool in France, film music composers struggle to get representation in other European countries and/or in Hollywood, let alone in France. Indeed, only a handful of French music composers, such as Alexandre Desplat, Nathaniel Méchaly and Evgueni Galperine have proper representation, with agents located both in Paris and Los Angeles. However, 99% of music composers, active on the French film market, are unrepresented and can only rely on their inner capabilities and charm, to befriend a rising French film director and/or shrewd French film producer, and hence be given the top music job.
This is a hard task for most, but especially for music composers who are often introverted and socially-shy people.
The attitude of French music supervisors, who work on behalf of French film production companies such as EuropaCorp, in order to get them original music scores commissioned and made per film project, does not help either. Indeed, upon receiving a new assignment, their first port of call is to contact French agents and tap their internal roster of music talent, using such agents as gatekeepers and “quality controllers” of the French film music market.
As a result, only 1% of the film music composers’ pool available on the French film music market gets to participate in tenders for French film productions, leaving the remaining 99% out of reach … and out of their depth.
3. The winning formula: leveraging the French state subsidy system to your advantage, as a film music composer aspiring to work on French film productions
When approaching French film producers, film music composers – especially foreign ones – need being completely on top-of-things, soft funding wise.
As explained in my daily-read article “How to finance your film production?“, many nations have attractive tax and investment incentives for filmmakers, whereby individual regional and country legislation unables film producers to subsidise spent costs for production.
France is no exception to that, with tax finance structured in the following manner:
- for non-French film productions, the Tax Rebate for International Productions (TRIP) is a tax rebate which applies to projects wholly or partly made in France. It it selectively granted by the French national centre for cinema (CNC) to a French production services company. TRIP amounts up to 30% of the qualifying expenditures incurred in France: it can total a maximum of Euros 30m per project. The French government refunds the applicant company, which must have its registered office in France. “Thor” (Marvel Studios), “Despicable Me” and “the Minions” (Universal Animation Studios), as well as “Inception” (Warner Bros), have benefited from TRIP.
- for European film co-productions, the Crédit d’impôt cinéma et audiovisuel (CICA) is a tax credit that benefits French producers for expenses incurred in France for the production of films or TV programmes. The CICA tax credit is equal to 20% of eligible expenses – increased to 30% for films for which the production budget is less than Euros 4m.
3.1. TRIP: making sure to get the points needed to pass the cultural test
To qualify into the TRIP, a film project must:
- be a fiction film (live action or animation, feature film, TV, web, VR, short film TV special, single or several episodes of a series, or a whole season, etc.)
- pass a cultural test and
- shoot at least 5 days in France for live-action production (unless VFX/post).
For film music composers, the aspect of TRIP relevant to them is the cultural test: they want to make sure that, should the film producer and director select them as music composer and author on the project, they will fulfil the criteria to pass that TRIP cultural test.
The document entitled “9. Grille de critères de sélection pour une oeuvre de fiction” sets out that, in order to be eligible, a project must obtain at least 18 points. Criteria n. 10, on page 2, sets out that at least one of the music composers must be:
- a French citizen;
- a citizen of a European country (that includes all citizens of EU member-states) or
- a French resident,
for the film project to score 1 point out of the 18 necessary for eligibility.
Therefore, film music composers who are really serious about getting into the French film sector must meet one of the above criteria, to secure this 1 point for the TRIP’s cultural test, which is the maximum amount of points even a French citizen music composer could ever contribute towards the film project.
3.2. Co-productions: making sure to get the points needed on the French and European scales
European co-productions can benefit from France’s film financing system, notably the French selective schemes, such as, inter alia:
- CICA, the automatic support for the French producer and distributor from French TV channels and Free-to-air networks (as Canal +, TF1, France Televisions, ARTE and M6 must invest a percentage of their annual revenues on French and European films);
- automatic subsidies referred to in French as “compte de soutien” or “soutien automatique”, where each qualifying movie producer or distributor receives automatic subsidies in proportion to the film’s success at the French box office, and also in video stores (a percentage of DVD bluray sales revenues) and in TV sales (a percentage of broadcasting rights sales);
- French regional funds and
- Sofica funds (private equity).
To qualify into the French tax credit and subsidies system, as an official co-production, the French co-producer will submit the project to the CNC.
The CNC is responsible for assessing applications for qualifications of a feature film, and uses the following criteria:
- two scales are used to determine whether it is European enough and whether it is French enough (European scale and French scale). Films must score enough points on both scales;
- when the co-production is made within the framework of a bilateral treaty, the citizens of the other country qualify as European. On this note, France has entered into bilateral co-production agreements with many countries.
Film music composers must therefore check whether employing them as a music composer on the film co-production would allow the project to get some points on the French and European scales above-mentioned.
Under the European scale, it is necessary for the authors (including the music composer), primary actors, technicians and collaborators to the creation of the film be:
- French citizens;
- Citizens from a EU member-state;
- Citizens from the country with which France has a bilateral co-production agreement in place, or
- Residents in France, in another EU member-state.
Therefore, film music composers who are serious about getting their foot in the door, must meet at least one of the criteria above. If they do, and out of the 18 points in the European scale, they will provide 1 point as a qualifying music composer in the European official co-production.
Under the French scale (“barème du soutien financier”), it is necessary for the project to score 100 points; except for the notable cases of Franco-Spanish, Franco-Italian and Franco-British co-productions, which do not have to comply with any minimum number of points to be eligible for “financial support” (“soutien financier”).
Music composers can bring up to 1 point, on this French scale, for fiction films, and up to 5 points, for a documentary, for example.
In order to obtain those points, under the French scale, it is necessary that the assignment agreements of the copyright, as well as the employment agreement of the film director, be governed by French law.
Therefore, film music composers will qualify under the French scale, for financial support (“soutien financier”) of the official European co-production, if the assignment agreement of copyright on the songs and tracks that they write and produce are governed by French law.
From a business standpoint, and in order to bolster the chances of getting the tax credit CICA, which comes from French TV channels and Free-to-air networks (as Canal +, TF1, France Televisions, ARTE and M6 must invest a percentage of their annual revenues on French and European Films), it is really worth highlighting and playing up any TV experience and clout that a film music composer may have. This should appeal to any French film producer, since they face a lot of competition from other French film producers, in order to get the best tax credit support from French TV channels, when pitching their film projects to them.
3.3. French regional funds: agreeing to assigning your copyright under a French language, French law-governed assignment agreement
As mentioned above, European official co-productions, but also – of course – French film productions, can benefit from the support and subsidies of French regional funds, such as:
- Fonds images de la francophonie;
- CNC support for creation of original music/score;
- Ile de France Authority Cinema and audiovisual support, and after shooting support, and
- Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur Creation and production film fund, documentary support (all stages) and animation support.
There is no points system in place, for any of these four French regional funds. However, Ile de France Authority Cinema and audiovisual support and Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur Creation and production film fund, documentary support (all stages), animation support, do have a cultural test in place.
As far as film music composers are concerned, the only requirement under these two cultural tests are that the film music composer would enter into a French language, French law-governed agreement, relating to the transfer of his/her copyright in the film soundtrack, to the France-based film production company. Film music composers do not need to have French citizenship, or be a French resident, to contribute towards the film project successfully passing the cultural test of either of these two French regional funds.
Therefore, the best way film music composers can ensure that their contributions to the film project will be weighting in a positive manner towards securing regional funding for the film production, is by having a polished and up-to-date CV listing all their musical compositions, awards and achievements, a catalogue of their best artistic work in good order, both online (soundcloud, Spotify, Deezer, etc.) and on CDs; and by contributing with the film director and producer in compiling the information and necessary data for each regional funding submissions.
For example, for the submission to the CNC Support for creation of original music/score (“aides à la création de musiques originales”), film music composers merely have to work with the film director and producer to ensure that they provide together all the deliverables required by the special commission of the CNC, such as the “note d’intention”, their respective CVs, and the CDs and DVDs requested.
The CNC, Ile de France Authority and Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur Authority, each request film music composers to enter into a French language, French law-governed agreement, relating to the assignment of copyright on the film soundtrack, with the French film production company.
To conclude, film music composers need to perfectly master the intricacies of the French soft funding system, and therefore skillfully demonstrate to French film producers and directors that, not only do they bring all possible qualifying points in any cultural tests put in place by the French film authorities, but also that they are willing to assign their copyright in their musical compositions and tracks’ masters, to the French film production company, under a French language, French law-governed assignment agreement.
To hit the ground running, and facilitate the work of any French film producers, film music composers should already be registered as members of French copyright collecting society SACEM, and French neighbouring rights collecting societies ADAMI and/or SPEDIDAM, if applicable.
Another major bonus would be for film music composers to already be registered with the French Centre des impôts des non-résidents, Inspection TVA, which is responsible for VAT registration of non-resident tax payers, and open a French VAT account. That way, if film music composers are paid service fees and/or a “prime de commande” by the French film production company, they can set out their VAT intra-community number, as well as the French production company’s VAT intra-community number, on their invoices.
Finally, since royalties, commissions, consultancy fees and fees for services performed or used in France, which are paid to a non-resident (either a company or an individual), are subject to a domestic 33.33% withholding tax, film music composers need to check whether any double-taxation treaty may be in place, between the country in which they are tax-resident, and France, which would provide full or partial relief of withholding tax on such income sources generated in France.
Be bold, do your homework, and your musical passion, skills and enthusiasm should become a great asset to any French film project and production!
On 30 March 2019, the UK will crash out of the EU without a withdrawal deal in place, and without a request for an extension of the 2 years’ notification period of its decision to withdraw. No second referendum will be organised by the current UK government. Therefore, what’s in the cards, for the creative industries, in order to do fruitful business with, and from, the UK in the near future?
My previous article on the road less travelled & Brexit legal implications, published just after the Brexit vote, on Saturday 25 June 2016, delivered the main message that it was worth monitoring the negotiation process that would ensue the notification made by the United Kingdom (UK) to the European Union (EU) of its intention to withdraw from the EU within 2 years.
We have therefore been monitoring those negotiations for you, in the last couple of years, and came to the following predictions, which will empower your creative business to brace itself for, and make the most of the imminent changes triggered by, the crashing of the UK out of the EU, on 30 March 2019.
1. End of freedom of movement of UK and EU citizens coming in and out of the UK
On 30 March 2019, UK citizens will lose their EU citizenship, i.e. the citizenship, subsidiary to UK citizenship, that provide rights such as the right to vote in European elections, the right to free movement, settlement and employment across the EU, and the right to consular protection by other EU states’ embassies when a person’s country of citizenship does not maintain an embassy or consulate in the country in which they require protection.
Since no withdrawal agreement will be signed by 29 March 2019, between the EU and the UK, UK nationals living in one of the 27 EU member-states will be on their own, as no reciprocal arrangements will have been put in place, in particular in relation to reciprocal healthcare and social security coordination, work permits, right to stand and vote in local elections.
UK nationals living in one of the states which are members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), i.e. Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, will also have no safety net, as the UK will also crash out of the EU bilateral agreements with EFTA members, such as the EEA Agreement which ties Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and the EU together, on 29 March 2019. Meanwhile, “the UK is seeking citizens’ rights agreement with the EFTA states to protect the rights of citizens“, as set out on the policy paper published by the UK Department for exiting the EU.
It therefore makes sense for UK nationals living in a EU member-state, or in one of the EFTA states, to reach out to the equivalent of the UK Home Office in such country, and inquire how they can secure either a visa or national citizenship in this country. Since negotiating some new bilateral agreements with EU member-states and EFTA states will take years, for the UK to finalise such negotiations, UK nationals cannot rely on these protracted talks to get any leverage and obtain permanent right to remain in a EU member-state or an EFTA state.
For example, France is ready to pass a decree after 30 March 2019, to organise the requirement to present a visa to enter French territory, and to obtain a residency permit (“carte de séjour”) to justify staying here, for UK citizens already living, or planning to live for more than three months, in France. Therefore, soon after 30 March 2019, British nationals and their families who do not have residency permits may have an “irregular status” in France.
While applying for a “carte de séjour” is free in France, and applying for French citizenship triggers only a 55 euros stamp duty to pay, EU nationals living in the UK, or planning to live in the UK, won’t be so lucky.
Indeed, it will set EU nationals back GBP1,330 per person, from 6 April 2018, to obtain UK citizenship, including the citizenship ceremony fee. However, there may be no fee to enrol into the EU Settlement Scheme, which will open fully by 30 March 2019, in particular if a EU citizen already has a valid “UK permanent residence document or indefinite leave to remain in or enter the UK”. The deadline for applying in the EU Settlement Scheme will be 31 December 2020, when the UK leaves the EU without a withdrawal deal on 30 March 2019.
Business owners and creative companies working in and from the UK will be impacted too, if they have some employees and staff. It will be their responsibility to ensure and be able to prove that their staff who are EU citizens, have all obtained a settled status: in a display of largesse, the UK government has therefore published an employer toolkit, to “support EU citizens and their families to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme“.
For short term stays of less than three months per entry, the UK government currently promises that “arrangements for tourists and business visitors will not look any different“. “EU citizens coming for short visits will be able to enter the UK as they can now, and stay for up to three months from each entry“.
To conclude, leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement is going to create a lot of red tape, and be a massive time and energy hassle for EU citizens living in the UK, their UK employers who need to ensure that their staff are all enrolled into the EU Settlement Scheme, and for UK citizens living in one of the remaining 27 EU member-states. There will be no certainty of obtaining settled status from the UK Home Office, until EU citizens have actually obtained it further to enrolling into the EU Settlement Scheme. This is going to be a very anxiety-inducing process for EU citizens living in the UK, and for their UK employers who rely on these members of their staff to get the job done.
Contingency plans should therefore be put in place by UK employers who have EU citizens on their payroll, in particular by setting up offices and subsidiaries in one of the remaining 27 EU member-states, so that EU citizens whose settled status was refused by the UK Home Office may keep on working for their UK employers by relocating to this EU member-state where they will have freedom of movement thanks to their EU citizenships. Besides the Home Office and immigration lawyers’ fees, UK employers need to take into account the legal, accounting, IT and real estate costs of setting up additional offices and subsidiaries in a EU member-state, after 30 March 2019.
2. Removal of free movement of goods, services and capital
The EU internal market, or single market, is a single market that seeks to guarantee the free movement of goods, capital, services and people – the “four freedoms” – between the EU 28 member-states.
After 30 March 2019, the single market will no longer count the UK, as it will cease to be a EU member-state.
While it was an option for the internal market to remain in place, between the UK and the EU, as such market has been extended to EFTA states Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA), and to EFTA state Switzerland through bilateral treaties, this alternative was not pursued by the UK government. Indeed, the EEA Agreement and EU-Swiss bilateral agreements are both viewed by most as very asymmetric (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein are essentially obliged to accept the internal single market rules without having much if any say in what they are, while Switzerland does not have full or automatic access but still has free movement of workers). The UK, as well as EFTA members who were less than keen to have the UK join their EFTA club, ruled out such option, not seeing the point of still contributing to the EU budget while not having a seat at the table to take any decisions in relation to how the single market is governed and managed.
2.1. Removal of free movement of goods and new custom duties and tariffs
As far as the removal of the free movement of goods is concerned, it will be a – hopefully temporary – hassle, since the UK does not have any bilateral customs and trade agreements in place with the EU (because no withdrawal agreement will be entered into between the EU and the UK by 30 March 2019) and with non-EU countries (because the 53 trade agreements with non-EU countries were secured by the EU directly, on behalf of its then 28 member-states, including with Canada, Singapore, South Korea).
On 30 March 2019, the UK will regain its right to conclude binding trade agreements with non-EU countries, and with the EU of course.
While the UK government laboriously launches itself into the negotiation of at least 54 trade agreements, including with the EU, customs duties will be reinstated between the UK and all other European countries, including the UK. This is going to lead to a very disadvantageous situation for UK businesses, as the cost of trading goods and products with foreign countries will substantially increase, both for imports and exports.
Creative companies headquartered in the UK, which export and import goods and products, such as fashion, design and tech companies, are going to be especially at risk, here, with the cost of imported raw material increasing, and the rise or appearance of custom duties on exports of their products to the EU and non-EU countries. Fashion and luxury businesses, in particular, are at risk, since they export more than seventy percent of their production overseas.
Since the UK has most of its trade (57% of exports and 66% of imports in 2016) done with countries bound by EU trade agreements, both UK companies and UK consumers must brace themselves for a shock, when they will start trading after 30 March 2019. The cost of life is going to become more expensive in the UK (since most products and goods are imported, in particular from EU member-states), and operating costs are also going to increase for UK businesses.
While some Brexiters claim that the UK will be fine, by reverting to trading with the “rest of the world” under the rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), it is important to note that right now, only 24 countries are trading with the UK on WTO rules (like any one of the 28 member-states of the EU because no EU trade deal was concluded with these non-EU countries). After 30 March 2019, the UK will trade with the rest of the world under WTO rules, as long as the other state is also a member of the WTO (for example, Algeria, Serbia and North Korea are not WTO members). Moreover, some tariffs will apply to all UK exports, under those WTO rules.
It definitely does not look like a panacea to trade under WTO rules, so the UK government and its Bank of England will weaken the pound sterling as much as possible, to set off the financial burden represented by these custom duties and taxes.
Creative companies headquartered in the UK, which export goods and products, such as fashion and design companies, should now relocate their manufacturing operations to the EU or low wages and low tax territories, such as South East Asia, as soon as possible, to avoid the new customs duties and taxation of goods and products which will inevitably arise, after 30 March 2019.
While a cynical example, since James Dyson was a fervent Brexiter who called on the UK government to walk away from the EU without a withdrawal deal, UK creative businesses manufacturing goods and products must emulate vacuum cleaner and hair dryer technology company Dyson, that will be moving its headquarters from Wiltshire to Singapore this year.
Moreover, the UK will face non-tariff barriers, in the same way that China and the US trade with the EU. Non-tariff barriers are any measure, other than a customs tariff, that acts as a barrier to international trade, such as regulations, rules of origin or quotas. In particular, regulatory divergence from the EU will make it harder to trade goods, introducing non-tariff barriers: when the UK will leave the EU customs union, on 30 March 2019, any goods crossing the border will have to meet rules of origin requirements, to prove that they did indeed come from the UK – introducing paperwork and non-tariff barriers.
2.2. Removal of free movement of services and VAT changes
On 30 March 2019, UK services – accounting for eighty percent of the UK economy – will lose their preferential access to the EU single market, which will constitute another non-tariff barrier.
The free movement of services and of establishment allows self-employed persons to move between member-states in order to provide services on a temporary or permanent basis. While services account for between sixty and seventy percent of GDP, on average, in all 28 EU member-states, most legislation in this area is not as developed as in other areas.
There are no customs duties and taxation on services, therefore UK creative industries which mainly provide services (such as the tech and internet sector, marketing, PR and communication services, etc) are less at risk of being detrimentally impacted by the exit of the UK from the EU without a withdrawal agreement.
However, since the UK will become a non-EU country from 30 March 2019 onwards, EU businesses and UK business alike will no longer be able to apply the EU rules relating to VAT, and in particular to intra-community VAT, when they trade with UK and EU businesses respectively. This therefore means that, from 30 March 2019 onwards, a EU business will no longer charge VAT to a UK company, but will keep on charging VAT to its UK client who is a natural person. Also, a UK business will no longer charge VAT to a EU company, but will keep on charging VAT to its EU client who is a natural person.
Positive changes on VAT are also in the works, because the UK will no longer have to comply with EU VAT law (on rates of VAT, scope of exemptions, zero-rating, etc.): the UK will have more flexibility in those areas.
However, there will no doubt be disputes between taxpayers and HMRC over the VAT treatment of transactions that predate 30 March 2019, where EU law may still be in point. Because the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) will cease completely in relation to UK matters on 30 March 2019, any such questions of EU law will be dealt with entirely by the UK courts. Indeed, UK courts have stopped referring new cases to the CJEU in any event, since last year.
2.3. Removal of free movement of capital and loss of passporting rights for the UK financial services industry
Since the UK will leave the EU without a withdrawal agreement, free movement of capital, which is intended to permit movement of investments such as property purchases and buying of shares between EU member-states, will cease to apply between the EU and the UK on 30 March 2019.
Capital within the EU may be transferred in any amount from one country to another (except that Greece currently has capital controls restricting outflows) and all intra-EU transfers in euro are considered as domestic payments and bear the corresponding domestic transfer costs. This EU central payments infrastructure is based around TARGET2 and the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA). This includes all member-states of the EU, even those outside the eurozone, provided the transactions are carried out in euros. Credit/debit card charging and ATM withdrawals within the Eurozone are also charged as domestic.
Since the UK has always kept the pound sterling during its 43 years’ stint in the EU, absolutely refusing to ditch it for the euro, transfer costs on capital movements – from euros to pound sterling and vice versa – have always been fairly high in the UK anyway.
However, as the UK will crash out of the EU without a deal on 30 March 2019, such transfer costs, as well as new controls on capital movements, will be put in place and impact creative businesses and professionals when they want to transfer money from the UK to EU member-states and vice-versa. While the UK government is looking to align payments legislation to maximise the likelihood of remaining a member of SEPA as a third country, the fact that it has decided not to sign the withdrawal agreement with the EU will not help such alignment process.
The cost of card payments between the UK and EU will increase, and these cross-border payments will no longer be covered by the surcharging ban (which prevents businesses from being able to charge consumers for using a specific payment method).
It is therefore advisable for UK creative companies to open business bank accounts, in euros, either in EU countries which are strategic to them, or online through financial services providers such as Transferwise’s borderless account. UK businesses and professionals will hence avoid being narrowly limited to their UK pound sterling denominated bank accounts and being tributary to the whims of politicians and bureaucrats attempting to negotiate new trade agreements on freedom of capital movements between the UK and the EU, and other non-EU countries.
Also, forging ties with banking, insurance and other financial services providers in one of the remaining 27 member-states of the EU may be really useful to UK creative industries, after 30 March 2019, because the UK will no longer be able to carry out any banking, insurance and other financial services activities through the EU passporting process. Indeed, financial services is a highly regulated sector, and the EU internal market for financial services is highly integrated, underpinned by common rules and standards, and extensive supervisory cooperation between regulatory authorities at an EU and member-state level. Firms, financial market infrastructures, and funds authorised in any EU member-state can carry out many activities in any other EU member-state, through a process known as “passporting”, as a direct result of their EU authorisation. This means that if these entities are authorised in one member-state, they can provide services to customers in all other EU member-states, without requiring authorisation or supervision from the local regulator.
The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 will transfer EU law, including that relating to financial services, into UK statutes on 30 March 2019. It will also give the UK government powers to amend UK law, to ensure that there is a fully functioning financial services regulatory framework on 30 March 2019.
However, on 30 March 2019, UK financial services firms’ position in relation to the EU will be determined by any applicable EU rules that apply to non-EU countries at that time. Therefore, UK financial services firms and funds will lose their passporting rights into the EU: this means that their UK customers will no longer be able to use the EU services of UK firms that used to passport into the EU, but also that their EU customers will no longer be able to use the UK services of such UK firms.
For example, the UK is a major centre for investment banking in Europe, with UK investment banks providing investment services and funding through capital markets to business clients across the EU. On 30 March 2019, EU clients may no longer be able to use the services of UK-based investment banks, and UK-based investment banks may be unable to service existing cross-border contracts.
3. Legal implications of Brexit in the UK
On 30 March 2019, the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (the “Act“) will take effect, repeal the European Communities Act 1972 (the “ECA“) and retain in effect almost all UK laws which have been derived from the EU membership of the UK since 1 January 1973. The Act will therefore continue enforce all EU-derived domestic legislation, which is principally delegated legislation passed under the ECA to implement directives, and convert all direct EU legislation, i.e. EU regulations and decisions, into UK domestic law.
Consequently, the content of EU law as it stands on 30 March 2019 is going to be a critical piece of legal history for the purpose of UK law for decades to come.
Some of the legal practices which are going to be strongly impacted by the UK crashing out of the EU are intellectual property law, dispute resolution, financial services law, franchising, employment law, product compliance and liability, as well as tax.
In particular, there is no clarity from the UK government, at this stage, on how EU trademarks, registered with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) are going to apply in the UK, if at all, after 30 March 2019. The same goes for Registered Community Designs (RCD), which are also issued by the EUIPO.
At least, some clarity exists in relation to European patents: the UK exit from the EU should not affect the current European patent system, which is governed by the (non-EU) European Patent Convention. Therefore, UK businesses will be able to apply to the European Patent Office (EPO) for patent protection which will include the UK. Existing European patents covering the UK will also be unaffected. European patent attorneys based in the UK will continue to be able to represent applicants before the EPO.
Similarly, and since the UK is a member of a number of international treaties and agreements protecting copyright, the majority of UK copyright works (such as music, films, books and photographs) are protected around the world. This will continue to be the case, following the UK exit from the EU. However, certain cross-border copyright mechanisms, especially those relating to collecting societies and rights management societies, and those relating to the EU digital single market, are going to cease applying in the UK.
Enforcement of IP rights, as well as commercial and civil rights, is also going to be uncertain for some time: the UK will cease to be part of the EU Observatory, and of bodies such as Europol and the EU customs’ databases to register intellectual property rights against counterfeiting, on 30 March 2019.
The EU regulation n. 1215/2012 of 12 December 2012, on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters, will cease to apply in the UK once it is no longer an EU member-state. Therefore, after 30 March 2019, no enforcement system will be in place, to enforce an English judgment in a EU member-state, and vice-versa. Creative businesses will have to rely on domestic recognition regimes in the UK and each EU member-state, if in existence. This will likely introduce additional procedural steps before a foreign judgment is recognised, which will make enforcement more time-consuming and expensive.
To conclude, the UK government seems comfortable with the fact that mayhem is going to happen, from 30 March 2019 onwards, in the UK, in a very large number of industrial sectors, legal practices, and cross-border administrative systems such as immigration and customs, for the mere reason than no agreed and negotiated planning was put in place, on a wide scale, by the UK and the EU upon exit of the UK from the EU. This approach makes no economic, social and financial sense but this is besides the point. Right now, what creative businesses and professionals need to focus on is to prepare contingency plans, as explained above, and to keep on monitoring new harmonisation processes that will undoubtedly be put in place, in a few years, by the UK and its trading partners outside and inside the EU, once they manage to find common ground and enter into bilateral agreements organising this new business era for the UK.
Copyright & neighbouring rights updates on both sides of the pond: progress in sight for right owners | Entertainment lawCrefovi : 14/10/2018 8:00 am : Articles, Copyright litigation, Entertainment & media, Information technology - hardware, software & services, Intellectual property & IP litigation, Internet & digital media, Litigation & dispute resolution, Music law
Notable headway is being made, on both sides of the pond, to legislate for better protection and empowerment of right owners. While such parallel progresses, made in the European Union and the USA, do not relate to resolving the same business and legal issues pertaining to copyright and neighbouring rights, they are notable as they illustrate a power shift, away from tech companies and their VOD and streaming platforms, as well as other distribution channels such as satellite and online radio, towards right owners such as music composers, performers, producers, film directors, etc.
1. Adoption of the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market
In my article on “Copyright in the digital era: how the creative industries can cash in“, I detailed how the European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, published his political guidelines for a new Europe which had, at its core, a connected Digital Single Market (“DSM“).
Central to the development of the DSM, is the implementation of the EU directive on copyright in the DSM 2016/0280 (the “DSM Directive“) in the 28 member-states of the European Union (“EU“). The key provisions of the DSM Directive include:
- providing rights of fair remuneration in contracts for authors and performers (articles 14 to 16);
- creation of an ancillary right for press publishers (article 11);
- obligation of online service providers (social networks, platforms, etc) to take measures to prevent infringement (article 13);
- new mandatory exceptions to infringement (articles 3 to 4);
- facilitating the use of out-of-commerce works by cultural heritage institutions (article 5).
The essence of each of these key provisions in the DSM Directive is set out in my article on “Copyright in the digital era: how the creative industries can cash in“.
The aim of the DSM Directive is to reduce the differences between national copyright regimes and to allow for wider online access to copyrighted works by users across the EU, in order to move towards a proper DSM.
First introduced by the European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs on 20 June 2018, the DSM Directive was approved by the European Parliament on 12 September 2018, and will now enter formal trilogue discussions (i.e. closed-door compromise negotiations held between the three bodies involved in the legislative process of the EU institutions, which are the European Commission, the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament, to finalise the wording of the DSM Directive). This trilogue is expected to conclude in January 2019, with a final plenary vote taken by the European Parliament then. Once the DSM Directive is signed into law, each of the 28 member-states of the EU will have to transpose it in its national legal framework, during a two-year transposition period.
It is worth mentioning that, on 20 June 2018, when the European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs proposed the negotiating mandate on the DSM Directive to the European Parliament, such proposal was rejected.
While Members of the European Parliament (“MEPs“) generally agree that most provisions set out in the DSM Directive are non-controversial, the most contentious aspects of the DSM Directive are its articles 11 and 13. The former prevents online content platforms and news aggregators sharing links without paying for them, while the latter requires online platforms to monitor and effectively enforce copyright laws.
So what is the fuss all about?
Article 11 of the DSM Directive concerns press publications and deals with links to, or copies of, press publications. Today, 57% of internet users access press content through social networks or search engines; while the media cannot claim any rights on these hyperlinks. Article 11 sets out that right holders shall be able to obtain a fair and proportionate remuneration for the digital use of their press publications from tech platforms, such as Facebook, Linkedin, Google, etc.
As the right owners to press publications most often will be the publishers, there is also a paragraph incorporated, ensuring that the publishing houses will remunerate the actual authors, i.e. the journalists.
Merely sharing hyperlinks to articles, accompanied by “individual words” to describe them, can be done freely.
Despite those restrictions to the scope of article 11, several MEPs view this article as a “link tax” (tax on hyperlinks), and consequently an infringement of the freedom of expression.
Article 13 of the DSM Directive provides for the use of protected content – for instance, pictures, music, code, videos – uploaded by someone other than the right holder to online content sharing service providers, which store and give access to large amounts of works, such as YouTube or DailyMotion.
When article 13 of the DSM Directive will enter into force, platforms will have to enter into licensing agreements with right holders, regarding the use of the protected content. This will probably be done through a compulsory licensing system, which already exists for other areas relating to the use of intellectual property protected material.
If it is not possible to enter into licensing agreements with the right holders, the platforms and right holders must cooperate in order to ensure that unauthorised protected works are not available on these platforms.
Therefore, article 13 requires the platforms to proactively work with right holders to stop users from uploading copyrighted content without right holders’ prior consent. This will require automatic scanning and filtering of all material being uploaded to platform sites, such as YouTube, Dailymotion or Facebook.
Small and micro platforms will not be subjected to article 13, while Wikipedia and other open source platforms will also be exempted.
Despite those restrictions to the scope of article 13, several MEPs view the mandatory and automatic filtering and scanning of content as potentially too onerous for small and start-up platforms, thereby encouraging centralisation and consolidation of the internet since only large platforms will have the means and tools to implement this automatic filtering.
While there will be some costs involved for tech platforms, in connection with the establishment of security measures for securing that protected content is dealt with in the right manner, right holders will have much more financial incentives to upload their content to these platforms, once the DSM Directive is adopted by final vote in January 2019 and then transposed by each member-state.
Online providers of user-generated content will no longer be able to hide behind any Safe Harbor provisions, which essentially set out that, when users share content that infringes someone else’s copyright, the conduit through which that content is shared is not liable for the users’ infringing activity, as long as such platform, if and when a copyright owner notifies it of such infringement, for example by way of a “take down” notice, takes action to remove that content.
For the first time in history, through the DSM Directive, it is recognised that online content sharing service providers are not meant to be protected by Safe Harbor law, but should license any content first, as well as take proactive measures to prevent users from uploading unlicensed content.
2. Signature of the Music Modernization Act into US law
As explained in my article “Crefovi’s take on Midem 2015: wider income streams, that transparency issue and levelling the playing field“, the US congress ignored the copyright reform bills, such as the Songwriter Equity Act, the Allocation for Music Producers Act and the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, drafted by the US music industry, for many years.
While US radio broadcasters and other stakeholders fiercely pushed back on any introduction of a sound recording public performance royalty for AM/FM (terrestrial) radio in the USA, the collection and distribution of digital sound recording public rights, made by the US non-profit organisation established by Congress, SoundExchange, on behalf of artists and producers, was not as efficient and wide-ranging as it could have been.
As a consequence, many US artists, producers and managers worked from abroad, mainly in Europe, in order to benefit from wider sources of income and, in particular, from sound recording public performance royalties, also called neighbouring rights royalties.
This sorry state of affair is now over, with the Music Modernization Act (“MMA“) signed into law on 11 October 2018, further to being passed through both the House and Senate.
The MMA is a combination of three bills, as follows.
The Music Modernization Act which aims at improving how music licensing and royalties would be paid in consideration of streaming media services in the three following ways:
- It sets up a non-profit governing agency that will create a database relating to the owners of the mechanical license of sound recordings – i.e. the copyright that covers the composition and lyrics of a song (not the rights over the performance and recording of such song, which are held under a different license and collected by SoundExchange); such new agency will establish blanket royalty rates, which will be applied to pay composers and songwriters, when their songs are used by streaming services, and when such songs are recorded in this database. Such new agency and database should eliminate the difficulty previously faced by streaming services to properly identify any mechanical license holders. These royalties will be paid by streaming services, to the new agency, as a compulsory license, not requiring the mechanical license holder’s permission. The agency will then be responsible for distributing such royalties.
- It ensures that songwriters, composers and lyricists are paid a portion of mechanical license royalties for either physical or digital reproduction of a song with their lyrics or musical composition, at a rate set by contract.
- It revamps the rate court process when disagreements over royalty rates arise, with a random judge in the United States District court for the Southern District of New York assigned to oversee and handle such cases, from now on.
The Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, and Important Contributions to Society Act (the “CLASSICS Act“), which addresses the situation of sound recordings made before 15 February 1972, which were not covered under federal copyright law, leaving them up to the individual states to pass laws for recording protection. This had created a complex series of laws that made it difficult for copyright enforcement and royalty payments. The CLASSICS Act sets out that sound recordings before 1972 are covered by copyright until 15 February 2067, with additional language to grandfather in older songs into the public domain at an earlier time. Indeed, recordings made before 1923 will enter the public domain on 1 January 2022, with recordings made between 1923 and 1956 being phased into the public domain over the next few decades.
The Allocation for Music Producers Act (“AMP“) set outs that SoundExchange must also distribute part of the royalties on sound recordings, collected on digital sound recording public rights, to “a producer, mixer or sound engineer who was part of the creative process that created the sound recording“.
While the Music Modernization Act streamlines the music-licensing process in the digital era, it is worth noting that the more beefy provisions set out in the Fair Play Fair Pay Act have not been incorporated in it. Indeed, the Fair Play Fair Pay Act had been designed to harmonize how royalties were paid by terrestrial radio broadcasters and internet streaming services, on sound recording public rights. While songwriters and composers will now receive mechanical license royalties on both digital streaming and radio plays, performing artists and music producers will remain at a disadvantage since their performance royalties will keep on only being collected by SoundExchange on digital and streaming plays; not on terrestrial radio plays. It is baffling that the US government still considers such use of songs and sound recordings on radio to be merely “promotional” and therefore devoid of royalties for performers.
While the MMA is, without any doubt, a step in the right direction, to improve the financial well being of US songwriters, composers and lyricists, and, to a degree, of US artists, producers and performers as well as US music professionals such as music producers, engineers and mixers, these US reforms are nowhere as forward thinking and protective towards right owners than the DSM Directive or, even, the current EU copyright and neighbouring rights protection framework. Indeed, all the provisions set out in the MMA relate to the protection and remuneration of rights which have long been fully protected, and monetised, in the EU.
To conclude, the EU remains at the forefront of protecting right owners in the digital era, compared, in particular, to the USA, and it will be interesting to watch which side of the protection spectrum the United Kingdom decides to take, once it fully withdraws from the EU and ceases to have any obligation to transpose the DSM Directive in its national law, as a member-state, on 29 March 2019.
Annabelle Gauberti is the founding partner of Crefovi, our London and Paris law firm specialised in advising the creative industries. Having worked with creative clients for more than sixteen years, Annabelle is an avid believer in the importance and value of looking forward, and planning ahead, to thrive in the current music industry and its new paradigm. The work undertaken by her regularly includes advising songwriters and composers on publishing deals; producers and performers on record deals and all of the latter on streaming deals and sync transactions; as well as intellectual property registration and protection, intellectual property and commercial litigation, negotiating merchandise deals and partnerships between brands and bands. She is a solicitor of England & Wales, as well as an “avocat” with the Paris bar.
Annabelle is also the president of the International association of lawyers for the creative industries (ialci).
What are business owners obligations, in terms of registering beneficial ownership of their companies? How do these obligations differ, in France and the United Kingdom, even though such obligations stem from the same European legislation, i.e. the European Directive 2015/849 dated 20 May 2015 on money laundering?
1. What is this all about?
On 20 May 2015, the Directive (EU) 2015/849 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purposes of money laundering or terrorist financing, amending Regulation (EU) No 648/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council, and repealing Directive 2005/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, was published (the “Directive“).
As set out in the recitals of the Directive, and in order to better fight against money laundering, terrorism financing and organised crime, “there is a need to identify any natural person who exercises ownership or control over a legal entity (…). Identification and verification of beneficial owners should, where relevant, extend to legal entities that own other legal entities, and obliged entities should look for the natural person(s) who ultimately exercises control through ownership or through other means of the legal entity that is the customer“.
In addition, “the need for accurate and up-to-date information on the beneficial owner is a key factor in tracing criminals who might otherwise hide their identity behind the corporate structure“.
Chapter III (Beneficial ownership information) of the Directive relates to such topic.
In particular, article 30 of the Directive provides that “member states shall ensure that the information (on beneficial ownership) is held in a central register in each member state, for example a commercial register, companies register or a public register (…). Member states shall ensure that the information on the beneficial ownership is adequate, accurate and current” and accessible “to competent authorities, without any restriction; (…) and to any person or organisation that can demonstrate a legitimate interest“.
These persons or organisations shall access at least the name, the month and year of birth, the nationality and the country of residence of the beneficial owner as well as the nature and extent of the beneficial interest held.
2. Registration of beneficial ownership in French companies
With typical Gallic nonchalance, and while the deadline to transpose the Directive in each member-state was 26 June 2017, France transposed the Directive almost one year later, through its Ordinance n. 2016-1635 of 1 December 2016 reinforcing the French mechanism against money laundering and the financing of terrorism and of the Decree n. 2017-1094 of 12 June 2017 relating to the registry of effective beneficiaries as defined in article L. 561-2-2 of the French monetary and financial code (the “Ordinance” and the “Decree” respectively), with a compliance deadline of 1 April 2018.
The Ordinance and Decree, which have now been incorporated in the French monetary and financial code, compel all companies operating in France to register their beneficial owners with the Registry of Commerce and Companies of the competent Commercial court (the “Registry“).
2.1. Beneficial ownership and filing with the Registry
The notion of beneficial ownership is not defined in the Decree, although is it defined in the Directive as including each natural person who either ultimately owns, directly or indirectly, more than 25% of the share capital or voting rights of the company, or exercises, by any other means, a supervisory power on the managing, administrative or executive bodies of the company or on the shareholders general assembly.
The information that must be filed is essentially identical to that required by financial institutions and other entities such as law firms, in order for them to carry out their mandatory Know-Your-Client (KYC) procedures.
2.2. The initial filings
The declaration of beneficial ownership must be filed at the Registry when a company is first registered with the Registry or, at the latest, within 15 days as of the date of issuance of the receipt of registration (article R. 561-55 of the French monetary and financial code) i.e. when it is created or opens a branch in France.
2.3. Corrective filings
For companies already registered, the deadline for the declaration is 1 April 2018. If subsequent updates are required, new filing must be made within 30 days as of the fact or the act giving rise to a required update (article R. 561-55 of the French monetary and financial code).
2.4. On the beneficial owner
The declaration must set out the owner’s name and particulars, as well as the means of control exercised by the beneficial owner and the date on which s/he became a beneficial owner (article R. 561-56, 2. of the French monetary and financial code).
2.5. Persons having access to the register of beneficial owners
Access to the register of beneficial owners is limited to magistrates of the civil courts and the Ministry of Justice; investigators working for the Autorité des Marchés Financiers (French financial markets regulator); agents of the Direction Générale des Finances Publiques (Directorate-General for Public Finances); qualifying credit institutions, insurance and mutual insurance companies and investment services providers; and any person authorised by a court decision to this effect.
2.6. Penalties for non-compliance
The new provisions of the French monetary and financial code provide remedial penalties with the possibility for any person having a legitimate interest to bring an action in order to force the defaulting company to fulfil its obligation to declare its beneficial owners (article R. 561-48 of the French monetary and financial code).
Punitive provisions have also been introduced: failure to declare the beneficial owners to the Registry or filing a declaration involving incomplete or inaccurate information is punishable by 6 months of imprisonment and a fine of Euros 7,500 (article 561-49 of the French monetary and financial code).
3. Registration of beneficial ownership in British companies
Well within the deadline to transpose the Directive in each member-state of 26 June 2017, the United Kingdom transposed the Directive on time, through its new paragraph 24(3) of Schedule 1A of the Companies Act 2006, as amended by Schedule 3 to the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 (the “Companies Act” and “Enterprise Act” respectively), with a compliance deadline of 30 June 2016.
The Companies Act and Enterprise Act, compel all companies operating in the United Kingdom to keep a register of Persons with Significant Control (“PSC register“) and to file this PSC information via their confirmation statements, upon the due filing date of their respective confirmation statements with Companies House, i.e. the British equivalent to the French Registry of Commerce and Companies of the competent Commercial court (“Companies House“).
3.1. Beneficial ownership and filing with Companies House
The notion of beneficial ownership, or significant influence or control, as set out in the Companies Act, is defined in the Companies Act as including each natural person who either ultimately owns, directly or indirectly, more than 25% of the share capital or voting rights of the company, or exercises, by any other means, a supervisory power on the managing, administrative or executive bodies of the company or on the shareholders general assembly.
UK companies, Societates Europae (SEs), Limited liability partnerships (LLPs) and eligible Scottish partnerships (ESPs), will be required to identify and record the people with significant control.
3.2. The initial filings
The PSC information must be filed with the central public register at Companies House when a company is first registered with Companies House, i.e. when it is created or opens a branch in the UK.
In addition, new companies, SEs, LLPs need to draft and keep a PSC register in relation to them, in addition to existing registers such as the register of directors and the register of members (shareholders).
3.3. Corrective filings
For companies already registered, on 6 April 2016, the Companies Act required all companies to keep a PSC register and, from 30 June 2016, companies started to file this PSC information via their confirmation statements.
As each company has a different filing date, based on the anniversary of their respective incorporation, it took up to 12 months (i.e. 30 June 2017) to develop a full picture of all UK companies’ PSCs.
3.4. On the beneficial owner
Before a PSC can be entered on the PSC register, you must confirm all the details with them.
The details you require are:
- date of birth;
- country, state or part of the UK where the PSC usually lives;
- service address;
- usual residential address (this must not be disclosed when making your register available for inspection of providing copies of the PSC register);
- the date s/he became a PSC in relation to the company (for existing companies, the 6 April 2016 was used);
- which conditions for being a PSC are met;
- this must include the level of shares and/or voting rights, within the following categories:
- over 25% up to (and including) 50%;
- more than 50% and less than 75%;
- 75% or more;
- the company is only required to identify whether a PSC meets the condition relating to the control and significant influence, if they do not exercise control through the shareholding and voting rights conditions;
- this must include the level of shares and/or voting rights, within the following categories:
- whether an application has been made for the individual’s information to be protected from public disclosure.
3.5. Persons having access to the register of beneficial owners
A company’s PSC register should contain the information listed in paragraph 3.4 above, for each PSC of the company. However, that may not always be possible. Where, for some reason, the PSC information cannot be provided, other statements will need to be made instead, explaining why the PSC information is not available. The PSC register can never be blank and such information must be provided to Companies House.
Unlike in France PSC information is freely available, for each company, on Companies House’s website.
As the PSC register is one of the company’s statutory registers, each UK company must keep it at its registered office (or alternative inspection location). Anyone with a proper purpose may have access to the PSC register without charge or have a copy of it for which companies may charge GBP12.
If compared with the French situation, it is therefore much easier to obtain the PSC register for a UK company, than for a French company.
3.6. Penalties for non-compliance
Company officers who fail to take all reasonable steps to disclose their PSCs are liable to be fined or imprisoned (by way of a prison sentence of up to two years) or both. If an investigated person fails to respond to the company’s request for information, the company is allowed to “freeze” the relevant shares by stopping proposed transfers and dividends in relation to those shares.
Annabelle Gauberti is the founding partner of Crefovi, our London and Paris law firm specialised in advising the creative industries in general, in particular on their corporate and business law requirements. She is a solicitor of England & Wales, as well as an “avocat” with the Paris bar.
Annabelle is also the president of the International association of lawyers for the creative industries (ialci).
The GDPR is upon us: what is it? How is it going to impact you and your business? What do you need to do in order to become GDPR compliant?
There is not a moment to waste, as the stakes are very high, and since becoming GDPR compliant will definitely bring competitive advantages to your business.
On 27 April 2016, after more than 4 years of discussion and negotiation, the European parliament and council adopted the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”).
Why the GDPR?
The GDPR repeals Directive 95/46/EC on the protection of individuals with regards to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data (the “Directive”).
The Directive, which entered into force more than 20 years’ ago, was no longer fit for purpose, as the amount of digital information businesses create, capture and store has vastly increased.
Data, the bigger the better, is here to stay. Today’s data more and more greases our digital world. Control of data is ultimately about power and data ownership does seriously impact competition on any given market. By collecting more data, a firm has more scope to improve its products, which attracts more users, generating even more data, and so on. Data assets are, today, at least as important as other intangible assets such as trademarks, copyright, patents and designs, to companies. The stakes are way higher, today, as far as data ownership, control and processing are concerned, and GDPR addresses that data flow in the 21st century, as we all engage with technology, more and more.
Moreover, many legal cases, brought up in various member-states of the European Union (“EU”), pinpointed the severe weaknesses and gaps in providing satisfactory, strong and homogeneous protection of personal data, relating to EU citizens, and controlled by companies and businesses operating in the EU. For example, the Costeja v Google judgment, from the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”), commonly referred to as the “right to the forgotten” ruling, was handed down on 26 November 2014. This ground-breaking judgment recognised that search engine operators, such as Google, process personal data and qualify as data controllers within the meaning of Article 2 of the Directive. As such, the CJEU ruling recognised that a data subject may “request (from a search engine) that the information (relating to him/her personally) no longer be made available to the general public on account of its inclusion in (…) a list of results”. Through this decision, the CJEU forced search engines such as Google to remove, when requested, URL links that are “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed and in the light of the time that has elapsed”. It was a huge step forward for personal data protection in the EU.
In addition, data breaches at, and cyber-attacks of, thousands of international businesses (Sony Pictures, Yahoo, Linkedin, Equifax, etc.) as well as EU national companies (Talktalk, etc.) make the news, consistently and on a very regular basis, dramatically affecting the financial and moral well being of millions of consumers whose personal data was hacked because of these data breaches. These attacks and breaches raise very serious concerns as to whether businesses managing personal data of EU consumers are actually “up to scratch”, in terms of proactively fighting against cyber-crime and protecting personal data.
Finally, the GDPR, which will be immediately enforceable in the 28 member-states of the EU without any transposition from 25 May 2018, unlike the Directive which had to be transposed in each EU member-state by way of national rules, standardises all national laws applicable in these member-states and therefore provides more uniformity across them. The GDPR levels the playing field.
When will the GDPR enter into force?
The GDPR, adopted in April 2016, enters into force on 25 May 2018, ideally giving a 2-year preparation period to businesses and public bodies to adapt to the changes.
While many EU business owners take the view that the changes brought by the GDPR onto their businesses, will be of little or no importance or just as important as other compliance issues, there is not a minute to spare to prepare for compliance with the new set of complex and lengthy rules set out in the GDPR.
What is at stake? Which organisations are impacted by the GDPR?
A lot is at stake. All businesses, organisations or entities which operate in the EU or which are headquartered outside of the EU but collect, hold or process personal data of EU citizens must be GDPR compliant by 25 May 2018. Potentially, the GDPR may apply to every website and application on a global basis.
As most if not all multinationals have customers, employees and/or business partners in the EU, they must become GDPR compliant. Even start-ups and SMEs must be GDPR compliant, if their business model infer that they will collect, hold or process personal data of EU citizens (i.e. customers, prospects, employees, contractors, suppliers, etc).
The stakes are very high for most businesses and, for many companies, it is becoming a board-level conversation and issue.
To ensure compliance with the new legal framework for data protection, and the implementation of the new provisions, the GDPR introduced an enforcement regime of very heavy financial sanctions to be imposed on businesses that do not comply with it. If an organisation does not process EU individuals’ data in the correct way, it can be fined, up to 4% of its annual worldwide turnover, or Euros 20million – whichever is greater.
These future fines are way larger than the GBP500,000 capped penalty the UK Data Protection Authority (“DPA”), the Information Commissioner Office (“ICO”), or the maximum 300,000 euros capped penalty that the French DPA, the “Commission Nationale Informatique et Libertés” (“CNIL”), can currently inflict on businesses.
What are the GDPR provisions about?
The GDPR provides 99 articles setting out the rights of individuals and obligations placed on organisations within the scope of the GDPR.
Compared to the Directive, here are the new key concepts brought by the GDPR.
4.1. Privacy by design
The principle of privacy by design means that businesses must take a proactive and preventive approach in relation to the protection of privacy and personal data. For example, a business that limits the quantity of data collected, or anonymises such data, does comply with the “privacy by design” principle.
This obligation of “privacy by design” implies that businesses must integrate – by all appropriate technical means – the security of personal data at the inception of their applications or business procedures.
Accountability means that the data controller, as well as the data processor, must take appropriate legal, organisational and technical measures allowing them to comply with the GDPR. Moreover, data controllers and data processors must be able to demonstrate the execution of such measures, in all transparency and at any given point in time, both to their respective DPAs and to the natural persons whose data has been treated by them.
These measures must be proportionate to the risk, i.e. the prejudice that would be caused to EU citizens, in case of inappropriate use of their data.
In order to know whether a business is compliant, it is therefore necessary to execute an audit of the data processes made by such company. We, at Crefovi, often execute some audits certified by the CNIL or the ICO.
4.3. Privacy impact Assessment
The business in charge of treating and processing personal data, as well as its subcontractors, must execute an analysis, a Privacy Impact Assessment (“PIA”) relating to the protection of personal data.
Businesses must do a PIA, a privacy risk assessment, on their data assets, in order to track and map risks inherent to each data process and treatment put in place, according to their plausibility and seriousness. Next to those risks, the PIA sets out the list of organisational, IT, physical and legal measures implemented to address and minimise these risks. The PIA aims at checking the adequacy of such measures and, if these measures fail that test, at determining proportionate measures to address those uncovered risks and to ensure the business becomes GDPR compliant.
Crefovi supports companies in performing PIAs and in checking the efficiency of the security and protection measures, thanks to the execution of intrusion tests.
4.4. Data Protection Officer
The GDPR requires that a Data Protection Officer (“DPO”) be appointed, in order to ensure the compliance of treatment of personal data by public administrations and businesses which data treatments present a strong risk of breach of privacy. The DPO is the spokesperson of the organisation in relation to personal data: he or she is the “go to” point of contact, for the DPA, in relation to data processing compliance, but also for individuals whose data has been collected, so that they can exercise their rights.
In addition to holding the prerogatives of the “correspondant informatique et liberté” (“CIL”) in France, or chief privacy officer in the UK, the DPO must inform his/her interlocutors of any data breaches which may arise in the organisation, and analyse their impact.
Profiling is an automated processing of personal data allowing the construction of complex information about a particular person, such as her preferences, productivity at work or her whereabouts.
This type of data processing can generate automated decision-making, which may trigger legal consequences, without any human intervention. In this way, profiling constitutes a risk to civil liberties. This is why those businesses doing profiling must limit its risks and guarantee the rights of individuals subjected to such profiling, in particular by allowing them to request human intervention and/or contest the automated decision.
4.6. Right to be forgotten
As explained above, the right to be forgotten allows an individual to avoid that information about his/her past interferes with his/her actual life. In the digital world, that right encompasses the right to erasure as well as the right to dereferencing. On the one hand, the person can have potentially harmful content erased from a digital network, and, on the other hand, the person can dissociate a keyword (such as her first name and family name) from certain web pages on a search engine.
4.7. Other individuals’ rights
The GDPR supplements the right to be forgotten by firmly putting EU citizens back in control of their personal data, substantially reinforcing the consent obligation to data processing, as well as citizens’ rights (right to access data, right to rectify data, right to limit data processing, right to data portability and right to oppose data processing), and information obligations by businesses about citizens’ rights.
Is there a silver lining to the GDPR?
5.1. An opportunity to manage those precious data assets
Compliance with GDPR should be viewed by businesses as an opportunity, as much as an obligation: with data being ever more important in an organisation today, this is a great opportunity to take stock of what data your company has, and how you can get most advantage of it.
The key tenet of GDPR is that it will give you the ability to find data in your organisation that is highly sensitive and high value, and ensure that it is protected adequately from risks and data breaches.
5.2. Lower formalities and one-stop DPA
Moreover, the GDPR withdraws the obligation of prior declaration to one’s DPA, before any data processing, and replaces these formalities with mandatory creation and management of a data processing register.
In addition, the GDPR sets up a one-stop DPA: in case of absence of a specific national legislation, a DPA located in the EU member-state in which the organisation has its main or unique establishment will be in charge of controlling compliance with the GDPR.
Businesses will determine their respective DPA with respect to the place of establishment of their management functions as far as supervision of data processing is concerned, which will allow to identify the main establishment, including when a sole company manages the operations of a whole group.
This unique one-stop DPA will allow companies to substantially save time and money by simplifying their processes.
5.3. Unified regulation, easier data transfers
In order to favour the European data market and the digital economy, and therefore create a favourable economic environment, the GDPR reinforces the protection of personal data and civil liberties.
This unified regulation will allow businesses to substantially reduce the costs of processing data currently incurred in the 28 EU member-states: organisations will no longer have to comply with multiple national regulations for the collection, harvesting, transfer and storing of data that they use.
Moreover, since data will comply with legislations applicable in all EU countries, it will become possible to exchange it and it will have the same value in different countries, while currently data has different prices depending on the legislation it complies with, as well as different costs for the companies that collect it.
5.4. A geographical scope extended by fair competition
The scope of the GDPR extends to companies which are headquartered outside the EU, but intend to market goods and services in the EU market, as long as they put in place processes and treatments of personal data relating to EU citizens. Following these residents on internet, in order to create some profiles, is also covered by the GDPR scope.
Therefore, European companies, subjected to strict, and potentially expensive, rules, will not be penalised by international competition on the EU single market. In addition, they may buy from non-EU companies some data which is compliant with GDPR provisions, therefore making the data market wider.
5.5. Opening digital services to competition
The right to portability of data will allow EU citizens subjected to data treatment and processing to gather this data in an exploitable format or to transfer such data to another data controller if this is technically possible.
This way, the client will be able to change digital services provider (email, pictures, etc.) without having to manually retrieve all the data, during a fastidious and time-consuming process. By lifting such technical barriers, the GDPR makes the market more fluid, and offers to users enhanced digital mobility. Digital services providers will therefore evolve in a more competitive market, inciting them in providing better priced and higher quality services, as their clients will no longer be hostages to their initial provider.
5.6. Labels and certifications
The European committee on data protection, as well as EU institutions, will propose some certifications and labels in order to certify compliance with the GDPR of data processes performed by businesses.
Cashable recognition and true asset for the brand image of a company, labels and certifications will also become a strong commercial tool in order to gain prospects’ trusts and to win their loyalty.
What are the actionable steps to take, right now, to become GDPR compliant?
There is not a moment to lose to implement the following steps, below:
- Decide on the ownership of implementing the GDPR provisions in your organisation; assign ownership to the best suited department or team (Legal? Compliance? Technology?);
- Liaise with your one-stop DPA, as several of them have prepared useful explanatory information or guidance to comply with GDPR, such as the ICO in the UK, the CNIL in France and the Data Protection Commissioner in Ireland (the latter being the DPA of many a digital giant, such as Google, Facebook and Twitter);
- Draft a map of the data processes in your organisation, and identify the gaps in GDPR compliance in relation to these various processes – we, at Crefovi, have drafted some detailed documents on how to make this mapping of data processes and treatments and to support you on identifying the gaps in GDPR compliance;
- Value the various data processes and treatments and assess which ones are high risk and make a list of your high-risk data assets;
- Execute a PIA on those high-risk data assets (such as Human resources’ data, customers’ data) – Crefovi supports companies in performing PIAs and in checking the efficiency of the security and protection measures, thanks to the execution of intrusion tests;
- Implement legal, technical, organisational and physical measures to lower risks on those data assets and become GDPR compliant;
- Ensure that your contractors and sub-contractors have put compliant security measures in place, by sending them a list of points to check;
- Do privacy awareness training for your employees as they must understand that personal data is anything that can be linked directly to an individual and that there will be some consequences if they break the GDPR provisions and steal personal data;
- Develop a Bring Your Own Device policy (“BYOD”) and enforce it within your organisation and among your employees, since you are accountable for all data user information stored in the cloud and accessible from both corporate devices (tablets, smartphones, laptops) and personal devices. Also, when employees leave or are terminated, make sure that you have included BYOD in your off-boarding process, so that leaving staff lose access to company confidential data immediately on their devices;
- Check and/or redraft the information notices or confidentiality policies in order that they set out the new information required by the GDPR;
- Put in place automated mechanisms in order to obtain explicit consent from EU citizens, especially if your business deals with behavioural data collection, behavioural advertising or any other form of profiling;
- Put in place a solid management plan in case personal data breaches happen, which will allow you to comply with the mandatory requirement to notify your DPA within 72 hours – our in-depth experience of alert, risk management, analytical and notification plans, in France and the United Kingdom, put us, at Crefovi, in a great position to support our clients to prepare for the demanding requirements set out in the GDPR.
 “The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data”, The economist, 6 May 2017.
 “Preparing for the general data protection regulation: a roadmap to the key changes introduced by the new European data protection regime”, Alexandra Varla, 2017.
Annabelle Gauberti is the founding partner of Crefovi, our London and Paris law firm specialised in advising the creative industries in general, in particular on their personal data and cybersecurity requirements. She is a solicitor of England & Wales, as well as an “avocat” with the Paris bar.
Annabelle is also the president of the International association of lawyers for the creative industries (ialci).
Why authors, songwriters, composers, music publishers, movie producers, scriptwriters as well as digital service providers have everything to win in finding a consensus on copyright in the digital era.
Back in July 2015, I wrote a detailed article on neighbouring rights in the digital era and how the music industry may cash in on this exponentially expanding source of income.
Two years down the line, and further to attending the 2017 Cannes Film Festival and Midem, I am convinced that the dominance of digital distribution channels, and streaming in particular, is accelerating in the creative industries.
Focus 2017, the report on world film market trends published by the Marché du Film at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, notes that, while films available on transactional Video On Demand (TVOD, such as iTunes) and subscription VOD (SVOD, such as Netflix or Amazon Prime) are on the rise, there are still barriers to release on VOD in Europe. The main obstacle being the perception that the level of revenues from VOD exploitation is still low, with 80% of revenues generated by 20% of films as well as high marketing costs. Another hurdle to full scale development of VOD services is the legal protectionism that some countries, such as France with its “cultural exception”, put in place to limit the disruptions that any blatant financial and commercial success of digital service providers would trigger, towards local theatres, national exhibitors, locally-made film productions and the local public.
Be that as it may, such obstacles will not pass the test of time and will be swept away by the sheer force of consumers’ demands and expectations, driven by a more tailored, user-friendly and personalised approach to consuming audio or video content, at any point in time, in any geographical location and on any device.
Already, the music sector, which has always been the creative industry the most quickly affected and disrupted by the digital revolution, is much more attuned to the potentialities of streaming and adapting its own business model in order to monetise such digital revolution for the benefit of all stakeholders involved. For example, the largest digital music service provider, Spotify, confirmed that it had over 140 million active users worldwide, in June 2017, up from the 100 million figure that was declared a year ago.
At Midem 2017, much talk was made about transparency, fair remuneration, the value gap, to sensibilise Midem attendees and the music business in general, to the needs of including copyright owners in this digital success story. Indeed, how can such supply chain of great audio content work, if copyright owners (i.e. publishers, songwriters, composers) feel disenfranchised and left out of the commercial and financial boon represented by streaming? They will just refuse to keep their songs on digital services providers’ platforms, such as Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer, if they do not get well compensated for such use, potentially crippling the expansion of audio digital distribution channels in the process.
As I had promised I would do, in my earlier article on neighbouring rights, I now turn my attention to how deals are done with digital service providers, in the streaming arena, in relation to the licensing aspects of copyright, in particular performance rights for right owners in the musical composition (as opposed to the sound recording). Here, we focus only on copyright and the situation of right owners in songs and musical compositions – typically, songwriters, composers, music publishers – in films – typically, scriptwriters, film producers – and in books – typically, authors and press publishers.
1. Getting to grips with copyright in the digital era
Copyright was consecrated by law, step by step, in order to ensure that people who create, author and/or produce original content or work (such as authors, writers, composers, songwriters and artists) have exclusive rights for its use and distribution.
Copyright came about with the invention of the printing press and was established first in Britain, as a reaction to printers’ monopolies at the beginning of the 18th century. The English parliament was concerned about the unregulated copying of books and passed the Licensing of the Press Act 1662, which established a register of licensed books and required a copy to be deposited with the Stationers’ Company, thus continuing the licensing of material that had long been in effect.
Copyright has grown from a legal concept regulating copying rights in the publishing of books and maps to one with a significant effect on nearly every modern industry, covering such items as songs, films, photographs, artworks, architectural works, software, etc.
Such exclusive rights granted to content creators are usually for a limited time (in most jurisdictions, the author’s life plus 70 years after the death of the author) and may be limited by exceptions to copyright law, such as fair use in the USA and fair dealing in the UK and Canada. Also, copyright protects only the original expression of ideas, not the ideas themselves, which is referred to as the “idea-expression dichotomy”.
Copyright frequently includes reproduction, control over derivative works, distribution, public performance, transfer of these rights to others, and moral rights, such as attribution.
Copyrights are considered territorial rights, which means that they do not extend beyond the territory of a specific jurisdiction. However, the geographical scope of copyright has been extended thanks to international copyright agreements, such as the 1886 Berne Convention for the protection of literary and artistic works. The Berne Convention introduced the concept that a copyright exists the moment the work is “fixed”, rather than requiring any registration: under the Berne Convention, copyrights for creative works do not have to be asserted, declared or registered, as they are automatically in force at creation. The Berne Convention also enforces a requirement that countries recognise copyrights held by the citizens of all other parties to the convention. Therefore, foreign authors are treated in the same way than domestic authors, in any country signed onto the Berne Convention. The regulations of the Berne Convention are incorporated into the World Trade Organisation’s TRIPS agreement (1995), thus giving the Berne Convention effectively near-global application. These multilateral treaties have been ratified by nearly all countries, and international organisations such as the European Union (“EU“) or World Trade Organisation require their member-states to comply with them.
Since works protected by copyright are consumed more and more online, on digital channels (VOD for video content and streaming and downloads for audio content), a new challenge has arisen to ensure that copyright owners can monetise the exploitation of their works online.
At the EU level, a whole legal framework has been put in place, in order to protect copyright within the 28 member-states and in the digital world. For example, the directive on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright in the information society (2001/29/EC) strives to adapt legislation on copyright to reflect technological developments, while the directive 2006/115/EC harmonises the provisions relating to rental and lending rights of works subject to copyright. However, it is mainly the directive 2014/26/EU on collective management of copyright (the “CRM directive“) that reshaped the EU legal framework towards more efficiency in monetising copyright in the digital era.
2. Collecting societies, music copyright and the CRM directive: a step in the right direction for EU right owners
A copyright collecting society, also called copyright collective, copyright collecting agency or licensing agency, is a body created by copyright law or private agreement which engages in collective rights management. Collecting societies have the authority to license works protected by copyright and collect royalties as part of compulsory licensing or individual licenses negotiated on behalf of their respective members. Collecting societies collect royalty payments from users of copyrighted works and distribute royalties back to copyright owners.
Collecting societies are organisations handling the outsourcing function of right management. Copyright owners transfer to collecting societies rights to:
- grant non-exclusive licenses;
- collect royalties on their behalf;
- distribute such collected royalties back to them;
- enter into reciprocal arrangements with other collecting societies around the world and
- enforce their rights.
To understand the role of collective rights management societies, we first need to talk about performing rights. Performing rights represent the greatest source of continuing royalty income. Throughout the world, writers and publishers receive in the area of USD6 billion in royalties each year, from performance rights. The performing right is a right of copyright which applies to the payment of licence fees by music users, when those users perform the copyrighted musical compositions of writers and publishers. This right recognises that a writer’s creation is a property right and that its use requires permission as well as compensation. For example, performances can be songs heard on the radio, underscores in a TV series or music performed live or on tape at a show, an amusement park, a sporting event, a major concert venue, a jazz club or a symphonic concert hall. Performances can be music on hold on a telephone or music channels on an airplane, or digital service providers such as Spotify and Apple Music.
Collecting societies also negotiate license fees for public performance and reproduction and act as lobbying interests groups. They grant blanket licences (i.e. they grant rights on behalf of multiple rights holders in a single blanket licence for a single payment), which grant the right to perform their catalogue for a period of time.
Music users (those that pay the license fees) include the major TV networks, radio stations, pay cable services, digital service providers, websites, concert halls, the hotel industry, nightclubs, bars, theme parks, etc.
Copyright holders will join a collecting society as members and instruct it to license rights on their behalf. The collecting society charges a fee for the licence, from which it deducts an administrative charge before distributing the remainder in royalties. Collecting societies are typically not for profit organisations and are owned and controlled by their members, the right holders.
Most countries in the world have only one collective music rights management society (SACEM in France, SIAE in Italy, PRS in the UK) but the USA have decided to have three organisations, in order to avoid monopolistic and anti-competitive behaviour. Therefore, ASCAP competes with BMI and SESAC, with 96% of the licence fees in performance rights being generated by either ASCAP or BMI in the USA.
For many years, collective rights management societies had a quiet life, apart in the USA where ASCAP, BMI and SESAC fiercely compete with each other, in order to get the best catalogues and music hits in their respective roster.
However, around 2008, quite a few European collective rights management societies were facing serious performance issues, compounded by a highly protective attitude towards other European societies, and an inability to cope with the changes in the way music is getting increasingly distributed online, on the internet.
On 16 July 2008, the European Commission adopted a decision (the “CISAC decision“) prohibiting 24 European collecting societies from restricting competition as regards to the conditions for the management and licensing of authors’ public performance for musical works. The collecting societies were found to have restricted the services they offered to authors and commercial users outside their domestic territory. While the CISAC decision made it easier for authors to select which collecting societies would manage their public performance rights (for example, an Italian author would become able to license his rights to PRS in the UK or SACEM in France), it was deemed to not be enough in order to force European collective rights management societies to make the necessary changes to open themselves up to the market.
Therefore, European institutions stepped up their game and, further to a proposal for a directive on collective rights management and multi-territorial licensing of rights in musical works for online uses, published on 11 July 2012, the EU adopted the CRM directive, the directive 2014/26/EU on collective rights management and multi-territorial licensing of rights in musical works for online uses.
Consequently, in the EU, the conduct of collecting societies is now governed by national regulations which implemented the CRM directive in the 28 member-states by the transposition date of 10 April 2016. Further to the entry into force of the CRM directive on collective management of copyright and related rights and multi-territorial licensing of rights in musical works for online use in the internal market, fairer competition – as well as sound collaboration – have at last arisen between all EU-based collecting societies.
The CRM directive aims to fulfil the following objectives:
- modernise and improve governance, financial management and transparency of the EU collecting societies, in particular ensuring that right holders have more say in the decision making process and receive royalty payments that are accurate and on time;
- promote a level playing field for multi-territorial licensing of online music and
- help create innovative and dynamic licensing structures that encourage the development of legitimate online music services.
EU collecting societies that grant multi-territorial licenses are now required to have “sufficient capacity” to process efficiently and in a transparent manner the data needed to administer multi-territorial licenses. “Sufficient capacity” includes at least capacity to invoice users, collect rights revenue and distribute amounts to rights holders. Also, EU collecting societies must, in response to a “duly justified” request from service providers, rights holders or other societies, provide up-to-date information regarding their online repertoire. Both these requirements are challenges to many EU collecting societies, as timely and accurate invoicing has never been a strong feature of collective licensing in Europe.
For digital service providers that wish to allow users to access easily a vast library of online content, the ability to obtain multi-territorial licenses is the critical factor in enabling service of a pan-European user-base. At a time where digital service providers are not only squeezed by labels, but pressured by authors and publishers to increase royalties, it is not yet clear whether the national transposition regulations of the CRM directive will go far enough to protect digital service providers’ interests.
At least, EU collecting societies are now embarking themselves into pan-European licensing collaborations such as ICE (an online music rights licensing and processing hub formed by three of the EU largest collection societies, PRS (UK), STIM (Sweden) and GEMA (Germany)) and Armonia (another online music rights licensing and processing hub formed by SACEM (France), SGAE (Spain), SIAE (Italy), SACEM Luxembourg, SABAM (Belgium), SUISA (Switzerland), AKM (Austria), SPA (Portugal), Artisjus (Hungary)) which both received clearance from the European Commission to enable faster and simplified rights negotiations for digital service providers operating in the EU. In May 2016, ICE signed its first license deal in the digital market place, partnering with Google Play Music.
3. The master stroke: copyright and the EU digital single market
In July 2014, ahead of his European Commission presidency, Jean-Claude Juncker published his political guidelines for a new Europe. Central to his agenda was a connected Digital Single Market (“DSM“), which triggered proposed EU legislation aimed at making the most out of digital technologies, and at the removal of restrictions to free movement of digital goods and services. Among the reforms, were changes to telecoms regulations (the end of mobile phone roaming charges), data protection (approval of the General Data Protection Regulation) and EU copyright laws.
The EU copyright reforms, in particular, are highly ambitious with a series of key proposals announced by the European Commission in September 2016:
- a EU regulation facilitating broadcasters by requiring only country of origin clearance for ancillary online services (for example, simulcasts, music, e-books, games or catch-up services) which are available across the EU, which was adopted on 8 June 2017;
- a EU directive and a EU regulation to implement the Marrakesh Treaty: the former providing a mandatory exception to facilitate access to published copyrighted works for people who are blind, visually impaired or print disabled, and the latter permitting the cross-border exchange of copies between the EU and other countries that are party to the Treaty and
- a proposal for a EU directive on copyright in the DSM (the “DSM proposal“).
The key provisions of the DSM proposal include:
- providing rights of fair remuneration in contracts for authors and performers;
- creation of an ancillary right for press publishers;
- obligation on online service providers (social networks, platforms, etc) to take measures to prevent infringement;
- new mandatory exceptions to infringement;
- facilitating the use of out-of-commerce works by cultural heritage institutions.
The DSM proposal aims at reducing the differences between national copyright regimes and allowing for wider online access to copyrighted works by users across the EU. It recognises that, despite the fact that digital technologies should facilitate cross-border access to works, obstacles remain, in particular for uses and works where clearance of rights is complex.
As regards audiovisual works, the DSM proposal sets out, despite the growing importance of VOD platforms, EU audiovisual works only constitute one third of works available to consumers on those platforms! Again, this lack of availability partly derives from a complex clearance process. The DSM proposal therefore provides for measures aiming at facilitating the licensing and clearance of rights process, to ultimately facilitate consumers’ cross-border access to copyright-protected content.
In particular, the DSM proposal provides for fair remuneration in contracts of authors and performers, in its articles 14 to 16. Since authors and performers often have a weak bargaining position when licensing their rights, the DSM proposal sets out a “transparency obligation” whereby member-states will be required to ensure that authors and performers shall have the right to information about the exploitation of their works. The obligation may be adjusted where it is disproportionate or disapplied where the contribution of the author is not significant. The provisions go on to provide a “contract adjustment mechanism” so that authors and performers can request additional remuneration from the party with whom they contracted when the remuneration originally agreed is disproportionately low to the subsequent revenues and benefits derived from exploitation of the works or performances. Member-states are also required to provide a voluntary, alternative dispute resolution mechanism. The EU parliament proposes two small amendments: recognising rights to equitable remuneration, and providing authors and performers with the option to appoint representatives for seeking contract adjustments on their behalf.
Another reform set out in article 11 of the DSM proposal, aiming at efficiently monetising copyright in the digital era, is the ancillary right for press publishers. The European commission has said the proposed right aims to address the difficulties faced by press publishers in licensing their publications online: the problem comes from recouping their investment as against those who reproduce their content online for free. Article 11 of the DSM proposal strives to fight this problem by requiring member-states to provide “publishers of press publications” with rights to control the “reproduction” and “making available to the public” rights that are available to authors. This ancillary right is intended to last for twenty years from January 1 in the year following the press publication. A “press publication” is defined as a “fixation of a collection” of journalistic literary works. Similar laws have been introduced in Germany and Spain and it has been reported that these have led to delisting of press publications on news sites, resulting in reduced traffic to publishers’ own sites.
The European Commission proposes to address the so-called “value gap” between licensed streaming services, which pay for the content they host, and intermediaries, such as social media networks (Facebook) and online platforms (YouTube), which host infringing content. The e-commerce EU directive provides a “safe harbour” defence to these intermediaries, with a notice and take-down regime. However, rather than make amendments to the e-commerce EU directive, article 13 of the DSM proposal sets out that “information society service providers that store and provide to the public access to large amounts of works uploaded by their users shall, in co-operation with right holders, take measures to ensure the functioning of agreements concluded with right holders for the use of their works or to prevent the availability on their services of works identified by rightholders through the cooperation with service providers“. The European Commission suggests that such measures may include the use of content-recognition technologies. This article 13 seems at odds with the e-commerce EU directive, its safe harbour provisions and the assurance of no obligation to monitor information transmitted or stored. Therefore, we can expect to see further discussion between the European commission and the EU parliament on how to properly address the “value gap”. One thing that is for sure is that music copyright owners, publishers in particular, are particularly irritated by existing safe harbour laws in place in the EU and the USA and want intermediaries to become fully accountable for the damage that infringement on their platforms causes to copyright owners.
Another notable reform brought by the DSM proposal is the improvement of licensing practices and wider access to content. The European commission puts forward measures to facilitate the digitisation and licensing of out of commerce works. These are works that are not available to the public through customary channels of commerce and which are often held by cultural heritage institutions. The purpose of these provisions is to provide wider access to these materials and to guarantee the cross-border effect of licensing agreements.
Let’s watch the space, as far as the DSM proposal is concerned, but it definitely constitutes a step in the right direction, in order to improve the monetisation of works protected by copyright in the EU single digital market.
4. Technological solutions to better monetisation of copyright in the digital era: a work in progress
Midem 2017 was a whirlwind of fancy technical propositions to tackle transparency, as well as efficient and accurate ways of paying royalties to copyright owners in the digital era.
The creation of a global database of musical copyrights and works was, yet again, envisaged, despite the fact that the Global Repertoire Database (“GRD“) was a resounding failure in 2014 due to a lack of appropriate coordination between, and funding from, various stakeholders such as Universal, EMI Music Publishing, tech companies such as Apple, Nokia and Amazon and collecting societies such as PRS (UK), STIM (Sweden) and SACEM (France).
Other technical suggestions envisaged were the use of sophisticated rights administration and management software solutions such as Counterpoint, the standardisation of data such as streamlining ISWC codes, the improvement of metadata provided to digital service providers by music publishers and labels, and using blockchain to structure a new database, with streamlined ISWC codes and accelerate payment of royalties through smart contracts and bitcoins.
It seems to me that all these technical solutions, in particular the creation of a copyrights’ database and the implementation of clear ISWC codes and sets of metadata will only be implementable when their installation is coordinated by pan-European and mandatory regulations enforceable in the 28 member-states of the EU.
To conclude, while the interests of copyright owners are increasingly being looked after, thanks to both legal and technical processes and tools more adapted to the fluid changes triggered by new means of consumption of copyrighted works in the digital era, it still feels like it is a “touch-and-go” approach that is put in place here. Although both copyright owners and digital service providers have everything to win in increasing transparency and prompt collection of digital royalties, while substantially reducing the value gap which greatly benefits intermediaries protected by safe harbour, I am under the impression that they do not really communicate efficiently together and do not think that their interests are aligned.
Annabelle Gauberti, founding partner of music law firm Crefovi, which specialises in advising the creative industries, out of Paris and London. Having worked with creative clients for more than fifteen years, Annabelle is an avid believer in the importance and value of looking forward, and planning ahead, to thrive in the current music industry and its new paradigm. The work undertaken by her regularly includes advising songwriters and composers on publishing deals; producers and performers on record deals and all of the latter on streaming deals and sync transactions; as well as intellectual property registration and protection, intellectual property and commercial litigation, negotiating merchandise deals and partnerships between brands and bands.
Crefovi partners up with Les Echos Formation to present cutting-edge one-day training on the law of luxury and fashion marketing: how to secure your practices.
This ground-breaking training day will provide a complete view on the legal aspects to pay attention to, when planning and organising marketing and advertising campaigns, as well as catwalk shows.
From image rights, publicity rights to brand ambassador deals, endorsement deals, as well as managing the brand’s relationships with agencies (modelling agencies, advertising agencies, music supervisors, etc), no stones will be left unturned by Crefovi during this seminar.
Dates of this training day:
- Tuesday 25 April 2017
- Thursday 30 November 2017
Goals of this training:
- master the essential aspects of a win-win negotiation with stars and models, their agents, as well as advertising agencies, sync agents and music supervisors
- Understand who are the stakeholders, their positions and differents roles in the decision taking process, in relation to the choice of brand ambassadors and endorsers, music tracks which will feature during the catwalk show or the advertising campaign, fashion models
- Compare the various strategies and negotiation tactics, in order to obtain the maximum investment in the advertising campaign or the partnership, from the brand ambassador or celebrity endorser, while fully complying with image rights and publicity rights
- Maximise the “marketing” potential of social media while minimising legal risks, in particular copyright infringement risks
- Use anti-counterfeiting campaigns as a marketing strategy of luxury wares
Outline for the daily programme:
09:30 – 11:30: the advertising campaign – a breeding ground for legal issues
- Relationships between the luxury brand and advertising agencies: how to ensure that the “brief” written by the luxury house is well understood?
- The deal with the celebrity: manage the agents, talent agencies and the contractual relationship with the start
- Synchronising music in the advertisement: a marked path
- Relationships with the media, image rights and intellectual property: written press, TV, streaming sites (YouTube, Vimeo)
- Social media and law: how to maximise the potential of digital while keeping legal risks down
11:45 – 13:30 – the fashion show each season – an important legal challenge!
- Agreements with models and other service providers: an important stake
- Photographers and catwalk shows: image rights, counterfeiting and royalties
- Music in fashion shows: how it works, from a legal standpoint?
Witness talk: a general counsel from a top luxury house shares his experience on negotiating and structuring various partnership agreements with brand ambassadors. He will detail the existing legal challenges during such negotiations
14:30 – 15:30 – case study
- Rihanna v Topshop.
- Catherine Zeta-Jones v Caudalie
- Why complying with image rights and publicity rights is paramount in the luxury and fashion sectors
15:45-17:15 – Fight against counterfeiting as a marketing and advertising tool
- Status of the fight against counterfeiting in the luxury and fashion sectors
- New tools to fight against counterfeiting – legal and non-legal
- Lobbying actions against counterfeiting with ECCIA, the Walpole, Comité Colbert, etc
17:15-18:00 – Final summary
Final summary of key points and takeaways, in order to best structure marketing and promotional campaigns for a luxury and fashion brand, while complying with existing laws and regulations
Annabelle Gauberti is a solicitor of England & Wales as well as a French “avocat” with the Paris bar. She focuses her practice on providing legal advice, either contentious or not contentious, to companies and individuals working in the creative industries in general, and the luxury and fashion sectors, as well as the music, film, TV and digital industries, in particular.
Ms Gauberti has more than thirteen years of experience in practicing the law of luxury goods and fashion. Since 2003, she has written numerous articles about this legal field.
Ms Gauberti is at the forefront of the expansion and development of the law of luxury goods and fashion, in particular by providing courses and seminars to luxury professionals at the Institut de la Recherche de la Propriété Intellectuelle (IRPI) and to MBA students in Luxury Brand Management, around the world.
Below are a few links to the seminars that Ms Gauberti organised and to which she participated as a speaker:
Les Echos Formation
Since 2003, Les Echos Formation works alongside large companies and public servants in developing their managerial capabilities with training sessions and conferences. Les Echos Formation is a content publisher (online and offline), aggregator and animator of customised and tailored training sessions focused on the needs of managerial teams, while leveraging its many resources and networks.
London media and entertainment law firm Crefovi, hot on the heels of becoming an arbitrator on the arbitration panel of the Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA), will network, do deals and mingle at the 2017 Berlinale and European Film Market.
London media and entertainment law firm Crefovi is taking an increasingly targeted approach to developing and strengthening its films and motion pictures practice. Further to a scouting trip to Los Angeles in January 2015, to joining the Beverly Hills Bar Association in March 2015, to attending the Cannes Film Festival 3 years in a row, London media and entertainment law firm Crefovi has received its professional accreditation to attend the Berlinale and European Film Market (EFM) from 13 to 19 February 2017. The expertise of Crefovi in advising clients on motion picture and films matters, such as film finance, production agreements and day-to-day management of the legal aspects of a film production, has also taken a new turn earlier this year when it became admitted to the panel of arbitrators of the Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA) in Los Angeles, California. London media and entertainment law firm Crefovi offers both contentious and non-contentious legal advice with respect to motion picture and film deals.
We will be there!
Its presence at the Berlinale and European Film Market is paramount, in order to catch up with Crefovi clients, network with prospects, other professionals working for the film industry and the organisers of the festival. Indeed, the European Film Market and Berlinale are among the most prestigious annual motion pictures and films tradeshows in the world. They have remained faithful to their founding purpose: to draw attention to and raise the profile of films with the aim of contributing towards the development of cinema, boosting the film industry worldwide and celebrating cinema at an international level. Many top talent, management and professionals from the film industry congregate in Berlin, every year, to talk shop and have fun.
Crefovi off to European Film Market and 2017 Berlinale
Annabelle Gauberti, founding partner of Crefovi, will be attending the Berlinale and European Film Market and their events. We have long seen the European Film Market and Berlinale as one of the key international events in the film industry calendar so it’s a real privilege to be accredited to attend this. As well as talks, discussions, workshops and amble networking opportunities at the Film Market, the Berlinale also has an interesting line up of features films and short films to showcase. With a diverse mix of genres we are particularly looking forward to discovering Django, with Reda Kateb and Cecile de France, and Richard Gere and Steve Coogan in The Dinner. If this all sounds like too good an opportunity to miss, you can book your accreditation and see the full official selection of the Berlinale, on the European Film Market website. One of the USPs of the Berlinale and European Film Market events is the focus on creating a real dialogue between attendees and speakers, so if you happen to attend the discussion Annabelle is participating in please don’t hesitate to ask her a question! You can also catch her afterwards if you have anything specific you would like to discuss. See you there!
While at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2016, we could not help noticing that one of the hottest topics discussed by all film professionals in attendance was film finance, or lack thereof. Also, Crefovi film clients regularly ask for our input on this touchy subject. How to finance your film production nowadays? What are the best strategies to get your film funded and produced, in this day and age?
Well, here is the lowdown: it’s not easy. You will have to work hard and in an efficient and professional manner to secure the trust and hard-won cash of all those stakeholders who can finance your film project or, at least, allow you to save money while producing your film.
1. What do you need film financing for exactly?
The cost items for a film project are vast, both in numbers and sizes, and can be divided according to the various stages of filmmaking, as follows.
1.1. The idea
All films start with a moment of inspiration. Good ideas and story concepts are the foundation of any solid film project. Screenwriters usually have the initial idea or story but producers, who are in charge of raising money for a film project, frequently come up with ideas as well.
Ideas for films can be original or adapted from plays, novels or real-life events, which make up approximately half of all Hollywood films.
Ideas cannot be protected by copyright – or any other intellectual property right for that matter – because copyright subsists only in the tangible expression of ideas. This is referred to as the idea/expression dichotomy.
Therefore, film makers must take all adequate measures to protect their ideas and stories, by only divulging them after having taken some prior protective measures (such as having the recipient of the information relating to the idea sign a non-disclosure and confidentiality agreement) and/or by even subscribing to producer errors and omissions insurance and multimedia risk insurance which cover legal liability and defence for the film production company against lawsuits alleging unauthorised uses, plagiarism or copying of titles, formats, ideas, characters, plots, as well as unfair competition or breach of privacy or contract.
1.2. Development finance
The next stage in the development of a film project is to turn a rough idea or story into a final script ready for production.
Development money is the financial sum that you need to invest in your idea, until it is in a form suitable for presenting to investors and capable of attracting production financing. Development money is used, for example, to pay the writer, while the script is being written or re-written, as well as the producer’s travel expenses to film markets to arrange pre-sales financing from investors, as well as location scouting and camera tests. It also covers the cost of administration and overheads until the film is officially in pre-production.
Producers typically pitch to secure the money for the development of the script, or, if they can afford it, put up development money themselves.
Indeed, development finance is the most expensive and financiers who put up development money typically expect a 50% bonus plus 5% from the producer’s fees. Bonus payment is usually scheduled to be paid on the first day of principal photography (i.e. the shoot or production), along with the 5% of the producer’s profits as the film starts to recoup.
1.3. Script development
Once development finance is secured, and once a story idea is firmly in place, the negotiation process between the screenwriter and the producer (or production company or film studio) begins.
The writer hires an agent who represents him and plays a critical role in ensuring that the writer’s interests are represented in the negotiation process. The agent also ensures that the writer is paid appropriately in accordance with what the writer’s intellectual property rights may be worth in the future.
The producer has an alternative, in order to move the film project forward on the script development front: either he can buy the rights to the story idea or the material (a novel or play) from which the script was adapted outright, or he can buy an option of the film rights. The first transaction is an assignment of copyright. Buying an option of the film rights means that the producer owns the right to develop the film but only for a certain amount of time, it is therefore an exclusive licence of copyright.
In either cases, the producer is the only person allowed to develop the film idea into a screenplay. He pays the writer in smaller, agreed-upon instalments throughout this period, and may also agree to pay such writer a significant higher amount for all film rights once shooting begins. After the terms are negotiated, the writer can finally start working on the screenplay.
The scriptwriter then enters into action and, if needed, may first write a screenplay synopsis, also called “concept”. Unlike a “treatment”, which is a narrative of everything that happens in a screenplay, a synopsis includes only the most important or interesting parts of the story. A synopsis is a short summary of the basic elements in your story. It describes the dramatic engine that will drive the story in no more than a few sentences.
If the producer likes the synopsis, then the writer will proceed onto drafting the treatment, which, as mentioned above, is a prose description of the plot, written in present tense, as the film will unfold for the audience, scene by scene. A treatment is a story draft where the writer can hammer out the basis actions and plot structure of the story before going into the complexities of realising fully developed scenes with dialogue, precise actions, and setting descriptions. The treatment is the equivalent of a painter’s sketch that can be worked and reworked before committing to the actual painting. It’s much easier to cut, add, and rearrange scenes in this form, than in a fully detailed screenplay.
The author’s draft is the first complete version of the narrative in proper screenplay format. The emphasis of the author’s draft is on the story, the development of characters, and the conflict, actions, settings and dialogue. The author’s draft goes through a number of rewrites and revisions on its way to becoming a final draft, which is the last version of the author’s draft before being turned into a shooting script. The aim of an author’s draft is to remain streamlined, flexible and “readable”. Therefore, technical information (such as detailed camera angles, performance cues, blocking, or detailed set description) is kept to an absolute minimum. It is important not to attempt to direct the entire film, shot-for-shot, in the author’s draft. The detailed visualisation and interpretation of the screenplay occur during later preproduction and production stages.
Once you have completed your rewrites and arrived at a final draft, you will be ready to take that script into production by transforming it into a shooting script. The shooting script is the version of the screenplay you take into production, meaning the script from which your creative team (cinematographer, production designer, etc.) will work and from which the film will be shot. A shooting script communicates, in specific terms, the director’s visual approach to the film. All the scenes are numbered on a shooting script to facilitate breaking down the script and organising the production of the film. This version also includes specific technical information about the visualisation of the movie, like camera angles, shot sizes, camera moves, etc.
Once the script is completed, the producer sends it to film directors to gauge their interest and find the appropriate director for his film project.
The director and the producer then decide how they want to film the movie and who they will employ to support them in achieving this result.
One common way to make the film project more commercial is to attach well-known stars to the script.
In order to turn the film into a proper business proposition, the producer must know how much the film will actually cost to be made.
Potential investors would want to know how the producer plans to raise the money and how the producer plans to pay them back.
Agents and agencies are the lifeblood of the film business. They structure the deals, they hold the keys to each and every gate and often make or break projects. Having strong relationships in this space, for a film producer, is as important as having a strong story on which to base your project.
Agency packaging refers to the fact that an agency will assist in one/all of the following: talent packaging, financing, sales and international representation. Keep in mind that agencies earn their revenue based on a 10 to 15 percent commission of their client’s fees (not only talent, but also writers, producers, directors, etc) and therefore having an agency package an entire project as opposed to having them simply have a single member of their roster involved, will go a long way.
The underlying principle to remember is that agents are looking at each opportunity as a business transaction: regardless of the project, it still boils down to a decision based on the bottom line. As such, finding the right agency (the big agencies are not always the right fit for smaller projects) and incentivising agents by offering full packaging capacities will yield the best results both financially and strategically.
Filmmaking is an expensive business, and the producer must secure enough funding to make the film at the highest possible standards.
To obtain the investment needed to make the film, the producer must travel to, and meet with, potential investors and successfully pitch his project.
The producer’s lawyer will then draw up contracts to seal financing deals between the producer and investors or financiers. Indeed, there are departments of banks that specialise in film finance and offer film production loans.
The producer can also make money from pre-sales, selling the rights to the film before it has even been made. For example, during the Cannes film festival and market 2016, motion picture and television studio STX landed the big prize by plunking down roughly USD50m for international rights to Martin Scorsese’s next film project, “The Irishman”.
Once the financing is in place, the production company hires the full cast and crew and detailed preparation for the shoot begins.
A distinction is made between above-the-line personnel (such as the director, the screenwriter and the producers) who began their involvement during the film project’s development stage, and the below-the-line “technical” crew involved only with the production stage.
It is worth noting that, in France, most film directors do not only direct but also produce, co-produce and almost always write the screenplays for their films. Therefore, their income is made up of a salary, as director-technician, to which is added a minimum guarantee as director and another minimum guarantee as screenwriter of the film, with or without additional screenwriters.
All heads of department are hired, such as the location manager, director of photography, casting director, script supervisor, gaffer, production sound mixer, production designer, art director, set decorator, construction coordinator, property master, costume designer, key makeup artist, special effects supervisor, stunt coordinator, post-production supervisor, film editor, visual effects producer, sound designer. The shooting script is circulated to all of them as pre-production begins.
The casting director, director and producer begin to identify and cast the actors.
Storyboards are made, out of the final script. They are used as blueprints for the film where every shot is planned in advance by the director and director of photography. They have a sequence of graphic illustrations of shots visualising a video production. Most high budget films will have a very detailed storyboard. Those storyboards can really smooth out the post-production process too, when it is time for editing.
The production designer plans every aspect of how the film will look and hires people to design and build each part.
All other heads of department also go through this planning process and hiring process, for their respective department.
Effect shots are planned in much more detail than normal shots and could potentially take months to design and build.
1.7. The shoot or production
Filmmakers and producers must take a careful approach to green lighting the film project and moving forward with production, by requiring unanimous consent from producers, sales agents and board of directors of the film specially-incorporated company, before proceeding.
Shooting starts and funding is released, which is a key stage in filmmaking.
A large film production can involve hundreds of people, and it is a constant struggle to keep up with the shooting schedule and budget. Film productions are ran with strict precision. Production schedules are typically between 9 to 30 days, and you usually spend 12 to 14 hours on set, shooting from dawn to dusk. If film productions fall behind schedule, financiers and insurers may step in.
A 90 page script produced on a 24 day shooting schedule allows the director proper time on set, while keeping overall costs minimum – averaging under 4 pages per day.
The camera department is responsible for getting all the footage that the director and editor need, to tell the story.
Once lighting and sound are set up, and hair and make up have been checked, the shoot can begin.
Every special effect is carefully constructed and must be filmed with minimum risk of injury to cast and crew.
Production is a very intense and stressful process, especially for the producers and film director.
Post production usually starts during the shoot, as soon as the first “rushes” – raw footage – and sound are available. As the processed footage comes in, the editor turns it into scenes and assembles it together, into a narrative sequence for the film.
The editor will read your script and storyboards, and look at the rushes, and from this information, cut the film according to their opinion of what makes the story better.
There are two ways of doing post-production:
- the old way, i.e. celluloid film way. Shoot film and edit, or splice film on film editing equipment. There are few filmmakers who edit this way today;
- the new way is the digital way. You get all your rushes digitised (if shot on film, you will need them telecined, or scanned to a digital format).
The normal schedule for editing a feature is 8 to 10 weeks. During this time, your editor will create different drafts of your film. The first is called the “rough cut”, and last is the “answer print”.
There are two conclusions to an edit, the first when you are happy with the visual images (locking picture) and the second when you are happy with the sound (sound lock).
Once the picture is “locked”, the sound department works on the audio track laying, creating and editing every sound.
Digital effects are added by specialist effects professionals and titles and credits are added.
The final stage of the picture edit is to adjust the colour and establish the final aesthetic of the film.
During that post-production phase, it is also usual to get:
- a digital cinema package – a hard drive which contains the final copy of your film encoded so it can play in cinemas;
- a dialogue script, so that foreign territories can dub or subtitle your film, which has the precise time code for each piece of dialogue so the subtitler or dubbing artist knows exactly where to place their dialogue;
- a campaign image (with titles and credits), which is the first thing a prospective distributor or festival programmer will see of your film and which should let the viewer know exactly what your film is about;
- a 90 to 120 second trailer that conveys the mood and atmosphere of your film, knowing that programming and distribution decisions will be often be based on the strength of your trailer.
While the film is still in post-production, the producer will try to sell it to distributors (if he has not already sold the rights at the financing stage).
Filmmakers and producers must have a pre-sales distribution and market strategy in place, that optimises back end profitability of the film. Targeting major film markets – Cannes, Berlin, Toronto, Sundance, Tribeca, Venice and emerging South by South West – is key to a successful B-to-B marketing strategy, while the same sales agent who packaged the film oversees the final sale.
The film sales world is split up as the domestic market and international market and there are specific sales companies for both specific markets.
Producers tend to work without sales assistance on the domestic deals as it is in the best interest of the producer to form these relationships and close the deal personally, to have an open door for future projects that will need similar distribution.
To help sell the film internationally to distributors, the producer secures the services of a sales agent and markets his film by sending it to film festivals. High profile screenings at top film festivals can be great to generate “clout” for the film.
The trailer is used to show buyers the most marketable aspects of the film.
Distributors are fickle in many senses. The business has changed (think of the recent growth of video on demand streaming services) and international versus domestic deals are becoming challenging. Indeed, being a distributor is still a risky business: if the film is a success, distributors only earn their commissions; while if it is a failure, they lose their minimum guarantees, prints and advertising expenses (P&A). This is why the best way to be a successful distributor, nowadays, is to be also the producer, or at least co-producer because you then earn money on the much higher residuals and international rights, compared to domestic theatrical rights only.
Finding the right distributor takes time. Example of boutique distributors are HBO, IFC, Magnolia, Focus Features or Miramax for broadcast, VOD and content streaming. The search process of the most appropriate distributor for your film project, will give you practice pitching it, as well as the ability to review many different sellers to gauge style, ability and creative fit.
Just as the agencies are self-motivated, so too are sales agents (international film brokers) and distributors (buyers and exhibitors) motivated by the bottom line economics of the deal. Yes, there are buyers and sellers who specialise in content-focused for the art-house driven markets, but they are becoming fewer and fewer.
As the finishing touches are being made to the film, the distributors plan their marketing strategy to “sell” the movie to the public.
Knowing the audience is essential and the marketing team runs test screenings to see how the film is received.
Press kits, posters and other advertising materials are published, and the film is advertised and promoted. A b-roll clip may be released to the press, based on raw footage shot for a “making of” documentary, which may include making-of clips as well as on-set interviews.
Cinema expedition, also called theatrical release, is still the primary channel for films to reach their audiences.
Indeed, box office success equals financial success.
Film distributors usually release a film with a launch party, a red-carpet premiere, press releases, interviews with the press, press preview screenings, and film festival screenings.
Most films are also promoted with their own special website separate from those of the production company or distributor.
For major films, key personnel are often contractually required to participate in promotional tours in which they appear at premieres and festivals, and sit for interviews with many TV, print and online journalists.
The largest productions may require more than one promotional tour, in order to rejuvenate audience demand at each release window.
1.12. Other windows
A successful run in cinemas makes the film a sought-after product, which can be sold through other more lucrative channels such as DVDs and games.
Since the advent of home video in the early 1980s, most major films have followed a pattern of having several distinct release windows. A film may first be released to a few select cinemas (limited theatrical), or if it tests well enough, may go directly into wide release.
A popular option, to develop the domestic sales potential of a film, is to have a first phase initial release on a limited theatrical platform, paired with a joint digital download release on iTunes and Amazon – sales are driven by major market theatre visits and digital downloads in smaller markets. The second phase release via VOD and pay cablers such as HBO, Showtime and potentially Hulu – sales are then driven by word of mouth built from first phase. This is often followed by a third phase, which pairs Netflix and Amazon Prime streaming with a wide DVD release to drive streaming view and build DVD purchases. Finally, in its fourth phase, the film builds upon steady sales and word of mouth audience reception, to gain network television sales and eventual syndication. In broadcasting parlance, syndication is the licensing of the right to broadcast television programs by multiple TV stations, without going through a broadcast network.
Next, the film is released, normally at different times several weeks (or months) apart, into different market segments like rental, retail, pay-per-view, in-flight entertainment, cable, satellite, or free-to-air broadcast television. Indeed, the film may be released in cinemas or, occasionally, directly to consumer media (DVD, VCD, VHS, Blu-ray) or direct download from a digital media provider. Hospitality sales for hotel channels and in-flight entertainment can bring in millions of additional revenues.
Indeed, today, residuals, or neighbouring rights, as those additional revenues are called, bring in most of the profit for the film, not theatrical rights. Those residuals are collected by collection agents, such as Fintage House and RightBack, which adds transparency to the process of collecting revenues generated by the film.
The distributor rights for the film are usually sold for worldwide distribution.
The distributors and the production company then share profits.
As a film producer, you should “trust the shuffler but cut the deck”, by ensuring that you have an audit clause inserted in the distribution agreement, which will allow you to audit the accounts of the distributor in order to check that all collected revenues, from all sources, are indeed included in the residuals statements that you received from such distributor.
It is worth noting that, in at least 10 countries from the European Union, including France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, distributors of pay-TV services and/or operators of VOD services are required by law to contribute to the funding of production, either through contributions to support funds or by means of direct investments in production. The arrangements are generally complimentary to and extend tax law provisions requiring contributions from exhibitors, broadcasters and video distributors: all distribution activities must contribute to the funding of production.
2. How do you finance a film nowadays?
First things first: have you made a business plan? Creating a business plan is almost as important as finding a terrific script. You need to prepare a plan of attack to get the money to shoot your film. Indeed, as a producer or filmmaker, you need to make creating a viable and realistic business plan your first priority. Many filmmakers create an outline business plan first, and then find a script that matches what they think they can raise.
2.1. The studio model
The strategy, here, is to get 3 to 5 films together of a similar genre, and approach investors with a slate of similar films. If one of these films is successful, it will pay off for itself and the other 2 to 4 other film projects on the slate.
While this strategy consisting in hedging your risks by having more than one egg in your basket sounds great, a reality check is necessary: do you really think that you can get more than one project together? You may want to collaborate with some like-minded filmmakers with similar projects.
2.2. Government funding
Many nations now have attractive tax and investment incentives for filmmakers. Individual state and country legislation unable producers to subsidise spent costs for production.
For example, Europe’s MEDIA programme has twenty-odd programmes for media and filmmakers. You need to apply for the funding and lobby decisions makers until you get your soft money.
Many European filmmakers design a business plan around the rules and regulations surrounding the MEDIA money. The same applies for soft money from other countries as well.
Another example is the UK government, which pumps tens of millions of pound sterling into British film every year (using National Lottery funds!). Following the heavily criticised demise of the UK Film Council, UK public money is now distributed by the British Film Institute (BFI). Film London has also put in place a Production Finance Market (PFM), its annual two-day film financing event, run in association with the BFI London Film Festival. PFM encourages new business relationships, between UK filmmakers, producers and investors, attaching international sales companies and securing various forms of investments in companies and film projects.
As soft public money funds are always heavily oversubscribed and lobbied for by competing filmmakers and producers, you should not be over-reliant on getting government funding. In addition, those funds will impose restrictions, that could easily compromise your creative integrity.
Hard cash investments made to your film project by a single investor, a group of investors and personal investments from colleagues, friends and family.
Equity investments require that investors own a stake in the film (i.e. the operating structure, special purpose vehicle incorporated for that particular film project). They also must be paid back (typically on their principal investment plus 20 percent) before profit is seen on the side of the filmmakers and producers.
2.4. Tax finance
It’s all about de-risking your film package.
Through its Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and Small Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS), the UK government has created one of the world’s best environments for de-leveraging the risk of investments made in small businesses up to 98 percent (depending on the investors profile). EIS is designed to support smaller higher-risk trading companies to raise finance by offering a range of tax reliefs to investors who purchase new shares in those companies.
Film projects are qualifying business for EIS and SEIS, however we heard that the European Commission has audited the UK EIS and SEIS schemes and only wants long-term UK small businesses to benefit from such schemes, ruling out special purpose vehicles incorporated for each film project. With a Brexit in the works though, it is likely that EIS and SEIS will still be used to finance UK film projects, in the future.
To get all EIS or SEIS up and running, you need to get a strong business plan together with a budget and schedule. Fill in a few online tax forms and get your UK limited company registered for EIS. If you get stuck, phone a really nice lady in Wales who will make sure your secure the paperwork.
While investing in a film is seen as “sexy” by many private investors, the recent economic downturn, Brexit and the competitiveness of securing EIS and SEIS among filmmakers and producers, make investors shy and cautious. It may be worth speaking to UK film financiers, such as the Fyzz Facility (now merged with Tea Shop), who have a pool of private investors who are ready to invest, via gap funding (as this term is defined below in paragraph 2.6 (Gap financing)), through EIS and SEIS.
In France, Sociétés de financement de l’industrie cinématographique et de l’audiovisuel (SOFICAS) are the equivalent tax-wrappers to EIS and SEIS. They are equity funds financed with tax-related money and are allowed to invest in both films and TV productions, on a selective basis. Their money comes from banks which are allowed to collect, from French tax resident private investors who want to pay less income tax in France. As SOFICAS want their money back, they tend to do mostly gap funding (as this term is defined below at paragraph 2.6), providing producers with the last (and most expensive) money. SOFICAS generally stand behind the distributors in the recoupment order. Only part of the SOFICAS money is invested in independent film productions. Each SOFICA can invest 20 percent of its money in foreign-speaking (qualified) co-productions, as long as the film’s language matches the foreign co-producer’s country’s language. In 2015, SOFICAS invested Euros37m in 112 movies, 11 of which were majority foreign co-productions, mostly from British or Belgian producers. A top manager of SOFICAS for the media and entertainment sector in France, is Back-up Media.
Tax incentives require a producer to hire a certain number of local crew employees, rent from local vendors and run payroll through local services. Tax credits are based on an application process and are often lengthy (12 to 18 months) and difficult (as they may involve a substantial amount of tedious paperwork) to procure.
For example, UK film tax relief ensures that, for film spending GBP20m or less, production companies can claim a cash rebate of up to 25 percent of qualifying expenditure. For films spending more than GBP20m, production companies can claim a cash rebate of up to 20 percent of qualifying expenditure. The UK film tax relief is largely responsible for the recent influx of international blockbuster movies into the UK: “Star Wars: the force awakens” (LucasFilm), “Avengers: age of Ultron” (Marvel Studios) and the latest James Bond film “Spectre” (EON) have all been shot in the UK, mostly out of Pinewood Studios.
In France, the Tax Rebate for International Productions (TRIP) concerns projects wholly or partly made in France and initiated by a non-French film production company. It it selectively granted by the French national centre for cinema, CNC, to a French production services company. TRIP amount up to 30 percent of the qualifying expenditures incurred in France: it can total a maximum of Euros30m per project. The French government refunds the applicant company, which must have its registered office in France. “Thor” (Marvel Studios), “Despicable Me” and “the Minions” (Universal Animation Studios) and “Inception” (Warner Bros) have benefited from TRIP.
For French film productions, the Crédit d’impôt cinéma et audiovisuel (CICA) benefits French producers for expenses incurred in France for the production of films or TV programmes. The CICA tax credit is equal to 20 percent of eligible expenses – increased to 30 percent for films for which the production budget is less than Euros4m.
Certain tax credits are sellable, transferable and even trade-able based on the local legislation. US states such as New Mexico, North Carolina, Georgia, New York and Michigan offer the strongest solutions here.
It is really worth for film producers to organise a “competition” between various countries and territories as well, based on available tax rebates and government funding, before deciding in which country to produce and post-produce a film. Indeed, the UK and France are always in rivalry, Film France CEO Valerie Lepine-Karnik noting that “last year (in 2014), American blockbusters spent more than Euros1.6bn in the UK, which is half a million more than the total amount of money invested in French domestic film production in 2014″.
2.5. Pre sales and co-productions
The strategy, here, is to sell your film cheap up front (pre-sales) and hook up with producers in other countries to secure soft public money in other territories. Indeed, by co-producing, you can take advantage of soft money otherwise not normally accessible to your film production.
Pre-sales agreements are pre-arranged and executed contracts made with distributors before the film is produced. These agreements are based on the strength of the project’s marketability and sales potential in each given territory. A distributor will generate a value for your film project, given the script, the attached talent and crew, as well as the marketing approach, and then enable you to take out a bank loan using the pre-sales deal as collateral. Pre-sales can also result in direct payment (at a discounted rate) from the buyer themselves. Pre-sales investments require that the producer pay back the bank its loaned capital before profiting on their respective upside.
Both the UK and France have bilateral co-production treaties in place with certain countries such as:
- Australia, Canada, China, India, Israel, France, Jamaica, Morocco, New Zealand, Occupied Palestinian Territories and South Africa, for the UK;
- and Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guinea, Holland, Hungary, Iceland, India, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, South-Korea, Lebanon, Luxemburg, Morocco, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Palestinian Territories, Romania, Russia, Senegal, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Venezuela, for France.
For example, Ken Loach’s films, mainly produced in the UK, benefit from French funds through French production company Why Not since “Looking for Eric” in 2009. “Mr Turner” by Mike Leigh was co-produced by Diaphana.
Moreover, the European Convention on cinematographic co-productions applies for now, in both countries, although this will cease to be the case for the UK after Brexit.
While co-production can work, it can be difficult to set up co-productions and you will now have financial partners in various territories who will probably all want to exercise creative control. Also, you, the producer, will have to share any revenues generated by your film not only with the distributors, but also with your co-producers scattered in various countries.
2.6. Gap financing
With partial equity raised, you are then able to procure a loan from a bank or a private lender on the unsold territories of the film (and additional elements of collateral, such as the intellectual property or corporate guarantees).
Gap financing is only available when other elements have been assembled and there is adequate security for the investor to “bridge” against.
2.7. Product placement
The strategy is to team up with brands and get cash for including their products on set.
For example, Heineken reportedly paid a third of “Skyfall” ‘s USD150mn budget to turn Daniel Craig’s James Bond into a lager drinker!
Not only do you get some of your film funding through product placement, but the product exposure the brand enjoys may have a far greater value than the cost of the product placement and is generally seen to be cheaper than comparative advertising on TV or print.
However, having a product placement in a film means that you will always be under the scrutiny of brand managers, which may hamper the film creative process. Moreover, few independent filmmakers have the polling power of James Bond! Brands will always want to know what the marketing strategy of your film is, before they invest in, or even allow their products to be used.
Crowdfunding (Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, Ulule, Kiss Kiss Bank Bank, etc.) is now a serious contender to raising finance for your film projects. It enables a contributions-based model for capital to be raised without selling equity.
For example, the “Veronica Mars” Movie project and Spike Lee’s latest film project “Da sweet blood of Jesus”, were all financed through Kickstarter in 2013. Spike Lee raised USD1.4m for his horror flick on contemporary vampires, not a negligible amount by any means.
The strategy is that you get some rewards (such as DVDs, t-shirts, sharing dinner with the famous film director) together and offer them to friends, family and fools, as well as to the crowd, hoping to entice them into making a contribution to your film project. The idea, here, is to build a community who adheres to your story.
Even the studio biggies are using crowdfunding nowadays: Charlie Kaufman, an American screenwriter, producer, director famous for writing “Being John Malkovich” and “Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind”, raised over USD400k for his new project Anomalisa.
This is crowding the pitch and makes it even tougher to get enough noise directed your way. Therefore, you need a really good business plan in order to successfully approach crowd funding.
The strategy is to get everybody to work and be paid later, out of profits if any. Indeed, producers are able to avoid nearly all costs on a project if they are able to negotiate a deferred deal.
Convince everyone that in order to get the film made now, you cannot wait for investment. In exchange, you offer up a percentage of the share of profit, meaning that everyone’s salary could potentially increase depending on the success of the film.
Deferred agreements basically state that crew, cast, vendors, locations and services are all rendered upfront at no cost, until the film generates money upon release.
Deferrals may work but are reliant on the trust the producer has with his team. Often, deferrees are unpaid, even though the film goes on to commercial success. There is also the temptation to overstate the value of the deferment which can lead to bitter arguments if the box office returns do not meet expectations. Moreover, deferred financing is difficult because experienced cast and crew are unwilling to work under these types of structures.
2.10. Self-financed film projects
Self-financed movies mean you do not have to deal with investors. It also does mean that you have to be very careful with the money, which is yours.
For example, Tangerine’s director, Sean Baker, shot his feature film entirely on 2 iPhones and went on to become one of the most hyped film directors in 2015, as Tangerine was reviewed by many critics as one the the best films of 2015. In an interview with Bret Easton Ellis in 2015, 45 years old Sean Baker confessed to still be heavily in debt and reliant on the goodwill and empathy of his parents, to make ends meet.
While getting your film done immediately with your own resources is an enticing prospect and very achievable in today’s digital world, it is worth noting that most of these thousands of self-financed movies fail, mostly due to the fact that their scripts are not good enough. By going the self-financed indie route, filmmakers have side stepped the development cycle and no one has told them that their script sucks.
3. How do you make your film project stand out to financiers?
As mentioned in our introduction, it is tough to get films financed in today’s market. Of course, a strong script, a great team with experience and a game plan for success are prerequisites, but that’s not enough. The key factor to equity investors and debt lenders, is to remove risk, financial exposure and speculation – meaning, when are they going to start earning a return or their money back, and can you guarantee that? The more risk and speculation you remove, by utilising the steps below, the better chance you will have of securing capital in “hard money”.
As mentioned above in paragraph 1.4. (Packaging) above, talent agencies are a difficult nut to crack. They are well-guarded, highly established and protected entities. They are the gatekeepers of taste, talent and possibility – and more than anything they are the lifeblood of the independent producer seeking to put projects together with financing.
Once you have a suitable piece of material, get an agent/agency excited about the project as well. The way forward is approaching the major five talent agencies – William Morris Endeavor, United Talent Agency, Creative Artists Agency, The Gersh Agency and International Creative Management – for the packaging of quality source material – script, paired with proven name talent – actors and directors, under the representation of a successful in-house sales agent.
As with most of the entertainment business, agents think in numbers – how much will my firm/I make from this deal? Incentivize the agency by offering them the ability to package the project – place multiple roles with their roster rather than just one or two roles – which gives them the ability to earn 10 to 15 percent of multiple deals across the board.
Furthermore, offer them the ability to have a first look opportunity for domestic sales representation – again, finding ways to incentivise. By packaging these elements early on, you will be able to bring strong talent to the project and gear up to be more ready to approach equity players.
3.2. Strength of team and experience
A first time producer/director/star is a tough sell for many in the film business. Sales teams are unable to project value (pre-sell), agents are unable to place large name talent (packaging) and financiers are unable to gauge project return on investment (ROI).
Therefore, your best bet is to find a director who has carried a project before, find an agency who is interested in packaging and will keep you/your project in the stratosphere of content that matters and you will be in a great starting position.
The team must bring a wealth of knowledge, experience and relationships to the production phase, in order to properly execute feature film’s full production schedule. All the while, the producers and filmmaker must mindfully nurture the creative necessity, without neglecting the overall commercial nature of the film’s back end.
If you have to utilise unknown talents to make your project, then surround them with experience on all fronts. An unknown star with a strong director, director of photography, producer and writer is a reasonable recipe.
3.3. Soft money options
With your packaged talent signed on, a strong team on board, and a well-developed script, you can now approach “soft money” options, i.e. tax incentives/pre-sales/debt financings.
Tax incentives offer a percentage of the in-state or in-country spend back in rebate form. This means that you can bankroll/cash-flow this piece of financing to offset your investors’ risk.
Pre-sales offer projections of value based on the elements you have brought together. This, in turn, also implies that you can bankroll/cash-flow this piece of financing to offset your investors’ risk.
The same goes for debt options.
As a filmmaker or producer, you need to find ways to cover 50 cent or pence of every euro or pound your investor is putting up before the cameras even turn on.
Shoot in tax incentive rich states, with a strong pre-sold package, and with a great sales team onboard to execute. You can then reduce the level of speculation and guarantee a return of X percent, based on Y investment in a tangible timeline.
3.4. Plan of execution
With these elements onboard, make your investment proposal personable, professional and tailored to your investors specifics. Do not pitch high level equity film financing to first-time entertainment investors. Keep it simple, honest, and remind equity investors that while smoke and mirrors often run throughout the business, you are putting together a basic structure returning X percent on Y investment over Z timeline.
Lastly, look into completion/guarantor insurance guarantees, as a way to assure your equity investors that the project will be completed on time, schedule and budget, and with the elements they have agreed to finance. The liability is now removed via an insurance company and investors’ return is partially guaranteed via tax incentives and additional soft-money.
Pitch smart, often and confidently knowing that you have done your homework and that the investment is well-structured for a return.
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