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Film and music authors are unhappy with the money get from broadcasts, screenings or sales of their works – but there isn’t much agreement about where the source of the problem lies.
No one denies that it is tough to make a living as an author in Serbia if you are relying on copyright as a source of income.
For the whole 2011 the average musical author earned around 300 euro from copyrights. The total amount that broadcasters paid to the music copyrights agency, SOKOJ, was around 450,000 euro.
While authors, like film directors and musicians, make do with low financial returns on their work from sold copyrights, many film distributors are on the brink of bankruptcy because of pirate releases, which undermine ticket sales in cinemas.
The fact that the Law on Copyright and Related Rights from 2009 finally became binding a few months ago hasn’t helped authors that much when it comes to surviving from sales of their work.
SOKOJ pinpoints weak application of the law as the key problem. They say there is not enough support from state institutions, such as police, courts, the Office for Intellectual Property, and the broadcasting regulator, RRA, to strengthen implementation.
Small steps forward:
Many authors recall the market in the Nineties as a period of the worst violations of copyright in the 20th century.
TV and radio stations at the time routinely used movies and music without paying any compensation to the authors, while pirate releases of domestic and foreign authors swamped the streets.
|Director Darko Bajic | Photo courtesy of Darko Bajic|
Director Darko Bajic says the situation wasn’t much better a few years ago.
“A dozen of my films were aired on a variety of national and private television stations - around 150 broadcasts in all - and I have not received a cent for any of them,” he complains.
Over this period, Serbian law in theory regulated the area of copyright, but a great deal of the market was out of legal reach in this period.
In fact, the first law on copyright was passed in Yugoslavia 1929 and was amended and harmonized on several occasions, in 1946, 1957, 1968, 1978, 1998 and 2005.
The last law was passed in 2009, and was later harmonized with EU regulations and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, the TRIPS Agreement.
Authors agree that the situation concerning copyright is better than it was during the chaotic Nineties, but the money they earn from their work is still not enough to live on.
While music authors claim that the calculations of the state music copyright institution SOKOJ are wrong, and that money is not distributed fairly, filmmakers and distributors complain that there is no institution monitoring copyright in the field of film, so that their works are still copied and broadcast illegally.
Director Darko Bajic says many flaws remain in the copyright law, shown by the fact that television stations continue to broadcast movies without paying fees to authors.
“It is absurd,” said Bajic, who is also the president of the board of the Serbian Film Centre, the state institution in charge of the movie industry.
Bajic says that what is needed is an institution like SOKOJ to monitor copyright in the area of film.
“The association of film directors, which was re-founded three years ago, is on the way to founding such an institution, which would protect authors rights for filmmakers, just like SOKOJ does for music authors,” Bajic notes.
One of the biggest problems facing Serbian producers and distributors is the flourishing pirate market, which stands between their movies and the profits they should earn from them.
Ivana Kostic, from Delius, a movie distribution company, says that many distribution companies have been forced into bankruptcy by pirates.
“Both the companies that I once worked in, Sinears or Bandur, no longer operate. Piracy dilutes everything that filmakers are doing and the results are devastating for the distributors and cinemas alike,” she says.
She added that Montevideo, made in 2010 as a blockbuster for the Serbian market, lost much of its paying audience thanks to the pirate edition of the film.
Montevideo had more than 500,000 viewers in cinemas. “But the film would have had about 800,000 viewers without the pirate market,” she maintains.
“When an edition is pirated we are powerless. We cannot do anything. It spreads like wildfire,” Kostic adds.
Maja Milos, a young director who has received awards for his movie Klip, says that the rapid appearance of new movies on the Internet is inevitable.
"We are accustomed to piracy in Serbia,” she says.
“We got used to it in the Nineties when we used to watch the latest movies on television and when we would buy [pirated] music in front of the SKC (Student Cultural Centre in Belgrade).
“That was the only way we could stay in contact with the world. I think that Serbs got used to reaching film or music that way,” Milos adds.
She fears that many young people do not go cinema that often any more because they grew up watching pirated movies on DVD. There is not enough promotion of cultural events or films in the media that would enable younger generation to get accustomed to going to cinemas.
|Djordje Kacanski, film editor of Novi Sad Cultural Centre|
Djordje Kacanski, film editor of Novi Sad Cultural Centre, said that the renewal of the cinema network foundation is very important for the development of cinema and also for copyright.
Kacanski, an editor of the independent film festival Euro In film, held every December in Novi Sad, says it’s not easy to prepare a good programme for the festival because of the expense of copyrights - but authors must be paid.
”We need good skills to keep a good film programme on the festival and to honour all copyrights. But we must respect copyright because, only if we respect them do we respect our profession,” he says.
Do it yourself?
Although an institution exists to monitor their copyrights and distribute money accordingly, music authors claim the allocation of money is unfair, and that broadcasters falsify the data based on which calculations are made.
Zarko Kovacevic, of SARS, a band that won fame for the hit song “Budjav Lebac” (“Mouldy Bread”) says the law has to be redefined so that authors and musicians earn more money from copyrights.
He recalls that for their hit song in 2009 they earned less than 16.5 dinars – 15 cents in a year.
“People have heard that we received famous 16.5 dinars for that first year after we released the album,” he says.
“It was a slap and an insult to one’s intelligence, and we woke up to what the situation is like in the whole of Serbia,” Kovacevic adds.
"When we asked SOKOJ how this was possible, they replied that we could go through all the media and check the sum ourselves and then supply that information to them.
«If I should be doing this for the band, then what should SOKOJ be doing?» he asks.
His brother, Dragan Kovacevic, who wrote the lyrics of most of the songs on the band's first and second albums, has since dropped out of SOKOJ's arrangements and now defends his rights individually.
Zarko Kovacevic believes that individual protection of copyright, although time-consuming, is currently the only way.
«If each author decided to individually protect his or her rights, it would show the public what the situation in the field of copyright and protection really is,» he says.
«This is the only solution until something radical happens and the situation improves,» he concludes.
|The band Zbogom Brus Li | Photo courtesy of the band|
Slavko, from the band Zbogom Brus Li, also says that the collection of money from copyright is unfair; some authors receive more than they deserve and others get less than they should.
«The media don't deliver proper programme schedules to SOKOJ, nor does SOKOJ pay artists properly,» he said.
He says it was illogical that in some years, when their songs were played a lot, they received much less money than in other years when they didn't get as much airplay.
In SOKOJ they say that every dissatisfied author can access the programme schedules, which are the main documents that SOKOJ uses to work out copyright fees.
«Of tens of thousands of authors and copyright holders, there are going to be some who are not satisfied but the source of their discontent should not be sought in SOKOJ,» says Marija Cvijanovic, from SOKOJ.
«The legislation is fine, the problem is it’s application in practice,» she adds. «Better implementation of legislation in practice requires more support from state institutions.»
This article is funded under the BICCED project, supported by the Swiss Cultural Programme.
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