IRIS Plus 2002-4: In Search of Lost Rightsholders: Clearing Video-on-Demand Rights for European Audiovisual Works

Author: Francisco Javier Cabrera Blázquez, European Audiovisual Observatory

Published: 01/09/2002

Technical advances have always represented a constant challenge for the law and online exploitation of audiovisual works is no exception. The recent innovation whereby films can be disseminated via the Internet (Video-on- Demand) creates particular difficulties relating to the protection of (secondary) exploitation rights which, in Europe, belong to all rightsholders involved in film production. Should a producer wish to make a film available online before it is screened in cinemas, for example, he would have to obtain the consent of the various rightsholders. In some cases, however, there are numerous such rightsholders. It is often possible to negotiate agreements with collecting societies concerning the online exploitation of audiovisual works. However, these can only be signed if the particular group of rightsholders have formed a company to look after their collective interests, usually relating only to new productions. On the other hand, older works are rarely covered by collecting societies and producers wishing to acquire rights to them are often unable to find the rightsholders.

This conflict between consistent copyright protection and new ways of exploiting audiovisual works is investigated in the following article. The key role that collecting societies might play and the need for corresponding legal provisions are discussed in particular.