With the advent of digital technology and the potential for transferring data through widespread use of high flow rates, it became apparent to collective administration societies very early that there would be a radical increase in the ways protected works could be used, which would raise questions both familiar and unprecedented.
It is the responsibility of collective administration societies to provide coherent responses to issues raised by technological developments, by simplifying procedures required of users of works, and by standardizing the procedures already instituted by rights-owners to cover material as diverse as still pictures, moving pictures, music and written text.
By joining together the different repertoires of existing societies of authors and by extending the scope to include other repertoires usually handled outside collective administration (e.g. book publishers or photographic agencies), SESAM set up facilities properly designed for authorizing the use of works for "multimedia" purposes.
SESAM in no way replaces its member societies which remain responsible for their traditional fields of operations, but acts as a tool for all uses referred to as "multimedia", i.e. whenever at least two different types of elements likely to be covered by copyright incurring payment of authors' rights (music, still pictures, moving pictures and text) are included in any one program featuring interactivity (see SESAM by-laws, art.6).
In short, SESAM is the negotiating party for multimedia content suppliers and producers who intend to use a digital medium or network to convey to the public an interactive multimedia program including reproductions of works from repertoires represented by SESAM.
- To identify existing works and corresponding rights-owners in the various fields of original artistic creation, such as the fine arts and graphic arts, photography, music, literature, film and video, and to issue the appropriate authorizations.
To do so, SESAM has access to the existing databases of member societies.
- To implement appropriate rates and organize the collection and distribution of rights to rights-owners.
SESAM relies on the expertise and systems already developed for collecting and distributing rights as swiftly and as economically as possible.
- To control the use of protected works at each stage in the process of their use, from manufacturing to distribution.
SESAM occupies a key position in the field, in particular through the technical facilities for controlling the reproduction and use of each work with encoding and the network of professional relations active in the fight against piracy.
SESAM: the fruit of experience catering to today's needs
Late 1993 marked the beginning of a boom in conferences, seminars, symposia and debates with "multimedia" in the title.
Practical questions soon caught up with the lengthy legal debates. For example: how to obtain the authorization of rights-holders.
Everyone has heard of the brilliant French lawyer in charge of procuring authorizations for an American or Japanese multimedia producer-publisher, who admitted his despair in the face of the enormous task of securing all the authorizations required.
Others seriously wondered whether the French concept of copyright ("authors' rights") might be an impediment to these new applications. Others noted the absence of specific laws and hastily concluded that there was a convenient gap in the law.
To all these apparently insoluble questions, it seemed that satisfactory answers might nonetheless be found in the services offered by collective administration societies.
Why didn't the lawyers seeking the thousands of authorizations needed to produce a CD-ROM try to obtain some, even half of them, from existing societies of authors?
Many people have sung the praises of the U.S. copyright law, offering the buy-out formula, i.e. selling worldwide rights to works, often for an unlimited period, for a lump sum payment.
This option is illegal under French law (which only applies in France), but the American copyright system does not provide the ideal answer.
Quite obviously an author cannot negotiate with a producer on an equal footing and assess what the commercial use of his/her work is worth, when the multimedia market is still developing and therefore lacking definite references.
How can the author receive fair payment for the full extent of the use of the work?
Conversely, how can the producer be sure he is offering the author appropriate remuneration for the use of the published work? There is either a risk of underpaying authors and then having claims made in the event of commercial success, or of paying more than would be ultimately justified.
For existing works, the identification of each author whose authorization is needed often proves to be a lengthy and difficult process. Why spend a fortune trying to do what collective administration societies do free of charge?
SESAM administers copyright...
... applying to multimedia productions and the use of repertoires managed by ADAGP (Société des Auteurs dans les Arts Graphiques et Plastiques), SACD (Société des Auteurs et Compositeurs Dramatiques), SACEM (Société des Auteurs, Compositeurs et Editeurs de Musique) and SCAM (Société Civile des Auteurs Multimedia).
SDRM which administers mechanical rights for authors, composers and publishers, is also a member of SESAM. It has no separate repertoire, but currently manages rights due for reproductions of works in SACEM, SACD and SCAM repertoires.
SESAM is not a new society of authors but, like SDRM, SORECOP and COPIE FRANCE, is an "umbrella" society whose founding members are:
- ADAGP - Société des Auteurs dans les Arts Graphiques et Plastiques
(Society of visual artists)
- SACD - Société des Auteurs et Compositeurs Dramatiques
(Society of drama writers and composers)
- SACEM - Société des Auteurs, Compositeurs et Editeurs de Musique
(Society of music authors, composers and publishers)
- SCAM - Société civile des Auteurs Multimédia
(Society of multimedia authors)
- SDRM - Société pour l'administration du Droit de Reproduction Mécanique des auteurs, compositeurs et éditeurs
(Society administering the mechanical reproduction rights of authors, composers and publishers).
SDRM is also a member of SESAM so that SESAM can manage mechanical reproduction rights already transferred to SDRM by SACEM, SCAM and SACD.