One stop do it all
The advantages of having a society collectively managing authors' rights are :
- For authors, offering the possibility to join forces and present a coherent and uniform front for more efficient administration of their rights.
- For developers, producers and suppliers of on-line content can, through a simple procedure, obtain all authorizations required to respect authors' rights due for public uses of content protected by copyright.
The concept of a "one-stop shop" or single service point first appeared in the conclusions of the report of the Commission chaired by Professor Sirinelli. The report, was commissioned by the French Ministry of Culture and released in 1994.
The establishment of a "one-stop shop" was the goal for collective administration societies, but the term was deemed too trivial to describe the mission of a society of authors.
It was therefore given a more poetic name, akin to the magic word that opens doors. SESAM, while it is not a "single service point" for rights-holders, is designed as a "single society" for rights-holders.
Initial test runs and consultations were first held with the founding members, before the bylaws of the new society were signed on July 12, 1996.
The establishment of SESAM caters to a definite need and is founded on experience. The organization and mode of operation are designed to meet the complex legal situations arising with multimedia.
To meet these needs, a structure had to be set up, not ex nihilo, but founded on past experience and using existing tools, thereby minimizing investments and operating costs.
SESAM was basically set up as an extended SDRM.
Since 1935, SDRM has built up considerable experience in the management of different repertoires, having the mandates for the collection of mechanical reproduction rights for SACEM, SACD and SCAM.
In this capacity, SDRM has extensive experience, both in record production and video publishing. It has negotiated standard agreements, with provision for different rates when necessary, according to the repertoire in question.
As SDRM monitors manufacturers, it is at a significant advantage as CD-ROMs are usually manufactured in the same pressing plants as conventional CDs.
SDRM has solid experience in combating piracy, and has defended the case of literary and artistic property to various investigators and magistrates.
The ambition was to extend existing tools used for the collection of rights to the visual arts repertoire. ADAGP was quick to join SESAM.
While the legal status of SESAM clearly had to be a non-trading company for copyright collection and distribution, this did not mean that SESAM could not be open to rights-holders not yet covered by collective administration.
This key issue has been a subject of lengthy debate. As the scope of SESAM representation will be a determining factor in its effectiveness, article 1.2 specifies:
"Any legal entity, of whatever nationality, able to authorize, in whatever capacity, the significant use of works of multiple authors that can be reproduced in multimedia applications as defined hereinafter in article 6, is entitled to become a member of the Society."
SESAM, which now represents all French societies of authors, is therefore open to publishers of books, owners of rights to photographs, etc.
SESAM has no repertoire of its own and no direct members, but has exclusive authority to administer the repertoires of its member societies.
SESAM is more than a "one-stop shop"; it is the Society of societies of authors whose works are used in multimedia.
The 6th article of the bylaws, describing the purpose of SESAM, defines the scope of multimedia as follows:
"The expression 'multimedia program' shall be taken to mean any material form or program which, although not in itself a computer program, incorporates, combines and manipulates, using software which offers interactive possibilities to users, data which constitutes works within the meaning of Article L.112-1 of the Intellectual Property Code, it being understood that said data must include different genres, with inter alia: music or sound, text, fixed or moving images, irrespective of the media or means of transmission used (either on-line or off-line, technology now known or hereafter devised).
Radio or television broadcasts of works shall not constitute use of multimedia programs, even when broadcast on request, given that said works or the circumstances of their use do not fulfill the requirements specified in the foregoing paragraph."
In other words SESAM is relevant as soon as the use of a protected content deals at least with 2 repertoires or different types of contributions in an interactive context, meaning essentially a non-linear one.
Now for the way in which SESAM operates. It is run by the usual governing bodies of authors' societies, including a Board of Directors responsible for managing the Society (article 20).
Coming to a decision on the allocation of powers and the number of seats was more difficult. Each society needed to be given its rightful place according to the repertoire it represents and may represent.
A pragmatic and cautious approach was required, as there are almost no reliable parameters available yet. Joint surveys were carried out to assess the relative weight of works used in multimedia, both in order to distribute powers and to set the licensing rates.
Due to the rapid evolution of the marketplace, not to mention the technological revolution in progress, the organization needs to remain flexible so that it can adapt to these changes.
The Board of Directors will therefore remain open, with 12 to 24 members, divided into four committees (still images, motion pictures, text and music) whose size may evolve with time. Also, a technological watch committee (article 29) is in charge of "continuously monitoring cultural, legal, technical and economic changes related to the aim of the society."
SESAM is therefore characterized by the pragmatic will of all French societies of authors to offer the technical solutions that are required to simplify the administration of authors' rights.