The Treacherous Pact Between French Authors and YouTube
When French authors sign a truce with YouTube (Google), French producers are feeling fooled and spoiled. On the other side, the two parties to the new agreement are congratulating themselves of such a step. The SACD (Union of Authors and Playwrights), SCAM (Civil Union of Multimedia Authors), and the ADAGP (Union of Authors in the Visual Arts) have signed an agreement with YouTube that retroactively comes into force from 2007 (when YouTube France appeared on the Internet) and 2013. According to it, the website would return 10% of its benefits to these three societies. Details are confidential, and French producers are calling the opportunity of the agreement into question.
In the meantime, French authors, who once again benefit from a wider protection in France than in common-law systems, have made a remarkable deal with the American giant. Or so they think. The deal is copied from an agreement that had been signed between these very three societies and the French video website, Dailymotion. For the past three years, unions are entitled to millions of euros. And they also can monetize the audience of their videos should they lay hands on a part of the publicity income made on their webpage.
Google, on the other side, is waving white flags at the cultural industry. Three months ago, YouTube had signed a similar agreement to return a part of the turnover money with the French association in charge of collecting payments of artists’ rights and distributing the rights to the originals creators. Further on, the American company has signed an agreement protocol with Hachette Livre to make around 50,000 books available on the internet. Next year, Google should open a European cultural center in Paris to speed up the transfer of resources to the numerical sphere. “We are engaged in a campaign to support creation”, explained Christophe Muller, the director of YouTube’s European partnerships. He similarly affirmed being eager to share the success of the website with those who materially contributed to it.
In the meantime, producers are frowning and groaning. Three producers unions would like to remind authors that producers’ authorization is legally required to confer any right to exploit an intellectual work. These unions also called into question that the unions of authors could agree to contract with the American company. As authors, they argue, they had a weaker bargaining power, and the resulting benefit is merely nominal. They demand that the agreement be communicated in its details to ensure the agreement is not substantially contrary to the relevant legal and contractual dispositions. Producers are threatening to take further action, and they call on the French government to draw some light on this “doubtful” deal.
The purpose of the agreement is certainly laudable, but was the agreement signed under the right circumstances, and equally understood by both parties? The question remains as the unions of authors have now acknowledged that producers’ authorization is actually required to exploit and perceive any dividend. How unfortunate that producers were purposely excluded from the negotiations tables.