People, 1. -  3. October 1998
Helmut Steinmetz
Abstract: Copyright for the Creative: Theory and Practice

Copyright is a human right. This year we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights.

In case of material property, the Western civilisation seems basically to agree that the property of other individuals must be respected. Intellectual property, however, seems to exist only in the framework of relevant decisions taken by the legislators. The international standards concerning intellectual property are determined in the Convention of Bern.

The EU in particular acknowledges the importance of protecting intellectual property. Although the 5 directives already passed and the draft proposals currently under debate are supported chiefly by the interest to eliminate barriers to allow the free movement of goods and services with the help of harmonised conditions, they also implement a high standard of protection. The present deficits, however, concern the new technologies such as online services. Nevertheless the diagnosis of the standard of general EU copyright regulations as a whole, would still be awarded the marks "satisfactory" to "good".

Copyright also includes the protection of cultural industry in order to safeguard investments and profits made in this business segment. Like vacuum cleaners, businesses in this segment naturally tend to acquire as many rights from the creative artists as possible and for the lowest possible price. The creative artist is usually in the weaker negotiation position. In order to survive NOW, he often has no other choice but to accept small print contract conditions and grant unrestricted user rights while the fee is calculated only on the basis of the one-time transaction under negotiation. There are great deficits in this area of "copyright contractual law" in Austria, Europe and the world.

When the authors, as is the case especially in music, organise themselves in commercial companies, such "monopolies" immediately attract the suspicion of anti-trust enforcement agencies and consumer protection organisations attempt to reduce the price of the product "copyright". Both misunderstand the special character of creative performance which is not a "product" that can be substituted or reproduced at will. It is generally known that only a small number of composers can support themselves with what they earn through composing. A diagnosis of the practical working conditions for creative artists would unfortunately be: there is urgent need for action at all levels.

The new European employment policy in the digital era must therefore give special consideration to the framework and working conditions of creative citizens. Therefore legislators must

  1. safeguard and further develop a high copyright protection standard,
  2. protect authors against exploitation by increasing the scope of copyright contractual laws,
  3. allow and promote the establishment of organisations to represent the material and intellectual interests of authors,
  4. create and safeguard adequate social framework conditions,
  5. provide fiscal regulations that reflect the irregularity of creative activities,
  6. enhance society's awareness of the value of creative performance.
Biography: Helmut Steinmetz (*1942) has been Director of AUSTRO-MECHANA in Vienna since 1975. He studied law at the University of Vienna and received his PhD in 1968. From 1969 to 1971, he was employed by the Federal Ministry for Science and Research. Subsequently, from 1972 to 1975, he was Director of LITERAR-MECHANA and since 1975 he has been Director of AUSTRO-MECHANA in Vienna. Since 1980, he has been member of the Comité de Direction des Bureau International des Sociétés Gérant les Droits d'Enregistrement et de Reproduction Mécanique, BIEM, Paris. From 1991 to 1992, he was vice-president of BIEM. From 1988 to 1996, he was auditor of the Confédération Internationale des Sociétés d'Auteurs et Compositeurs, CISAC, Paris.
Institution: Austro Mechana
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