Polish Filmmakers Demand Action: Open Letter to Prime Minister Calls for Implementation of Copyright Directive

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Polish Filmmakers Demand Action: Open Letter to Prime Minister Calls for Implementation of Copyright Directive

04.08.2023 ZAPA
Polish Filmmakers Demand Action: Open Letter to Prime Minister Calls for Implementation of Copyright Directive

In an unprecedented move, the Polish film industry, including filmmakers, actors, and producers, has taken a united stand against recent misleading statements made by Minister of Digitization, Janusz Cieszynski. In an open letter submitted to the Prime Minister's Office on August 4, the industry leaders expressed their outrage and demanded immediate action. The filmmakers emphasized the urgent need for the implementation of the Copyright Directive, which guarantees fair compensation, especially concerning royalties from online platforms.

                                                             Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki
                                                          Chancellery of the Prime Minister
Al. Ujazdowskie 1/3
                                                                                            00-583 Warszawa

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

We, the representatives of the Polish film community, including filmmakers, actors and producers, would like to express our deep concerns regarding recent statements made by the government representative, Minister of Digitization Janusz Cieszynski, in an interview with "Dziennik Gazeta Prawna" on July 1, 2023, and in an interview with "Interia Biznes" portal on July 21, 2023.

In both interviews, Minister Cieszynski denied his ministry's role in obstructing the adoption of an amendment to the Copyright and Related Rights Act, introducing Internet royalties for filmmakers. However, it was the ministry led by Mr Cieszynski that made a number of critical comments to the Ministry of Culture shortly after a meeting between Polish government representatives and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. This sudden halt in the progress of bill implementation is deeply troubling and has raised serious questions within our industry.

The scandalous blocking of the bill by the Minister of Digitization is a fact. It is all the more outrageous given that the amendment implements the EU Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, which Poland has committed to implement by June 2021. Mr Cieszynski’s reasoning, citing “concerns about rising prices for digital cultural goods”, lacks merit. However, we can state without a doubt that this type of argumentation is a populist ploy that only aims to mislead the public. An analysis of the subscription prices of streaming services in Europe and worldwide clearly shows that in countries where statutorily guaranteed royalties for creators are in effect or have recently been introduced, no subscription price increases have occurred for this reason. Subscription costs are not a response to legal solutions in individual countries. They are a result of the global pricing policies of streaming services and are happening in many countries simultaneously, regardless of their laws (i.e. Netflix, which has introduced new fees for account sharing all over the world, including Poland).

By his actions, Minister Cieszynski is inciting violations of the law in force in Poland, of which he may not be aware. As a reminder - the Copyright and Related Rights Act in Article 17 states: "Unless otherwise provided by the Act, the author shall have the exclusive right to use and dispose of the work in all fields of exploitation and to remuneration for the use of the work." The remuneration should cover all fields of exploitation, including the currently most popular internet distribution. This is expressly provided for by the EU Copyright Directive, which requires all EU countries to ensure that creators receive commensurate remuneration for profits made by streaming platforms and other distributors in all fields of exploitation.

Minister Cieszynski is silent on the fact that there has already been a delay of more than two years in implementing the directive, which has resulted in significant penalties for Poland. The European Commission’s complaint against Poland to the Court of Justice, filed in March this year, claims a penalty of €13,700 per day. Poland is 785 days late in implementing the directive, totalling a penalty of more than €10 million.

We are shocked by Mr Cieszynski's ostentatious unwillingness to comply with the law. He shamelessly and outright denies the need for regulations on artificial intelligence, the lack of which could lead to, among other things, the acquisition of personal data on a hitherto unimaginable scale. The lack of adequate regulations in this regard also threatens all cultural industries based on intellectual property.

It is reprehensible that the fate of Polish filmmakers is being attempted to be decided by a person who lacks elementary knowledge of the functioning of the film industry, instead constantly proving his alliance with multinational corporations. Contrary to Mr. Cieszynski's claims, royalties from the Internet, which are to be regulated by the amendment prepared by the Minister of Culture, have nothing to do with aid or support for the poorest artists. So Mr Cieszynski either does not know the content of the directive he is blocking or is once again deliberately trying to mislead the public. Royalties are not an exclusive superfluity through which fortunes are built, but an integral part of every filmmaker's remuneration, established in Polish law almost 30 years ago.

In Poland, royalties are paid by TV stations, cinemas or DVD distributors. Only VoD platforms are still exempt from this obligation. Unfortunately, the outdated law, coupled with a Minister susceptible to the lobbying of streaming services, results in a situation where we, as Polish creators, are discriminated against and lag far behind our European colleagues. The platforms, which are exempt from paying royalties, reap gigantic profits from the effects of our work, hardly including us in those profits. The estimated annual revenue of the Polish streaming market is already at least PLN 2.5 billion. Royalties, on the other hand, would account for only a small percentage of that sum - roughly 1.5%. This is intended for all the filmmakers whose films are available on online services, and thanks to which these services can function at all. It is easy to calculate that this is a much smaller amount than the penalty charged by the European Union for not implementing the directive. Is anyone in the Government calculating this?

Minister Cieszynski's ruthless attacks on the creators of Polish culture are a clumsy attempt to divert public attention from the promises made to the Netflix CEO. This is not the kind of attitude towards citizens that is expected from a government official. It is reasonable to ask: Were the royalties from streaming for thousands of Polish filmmakers sold for the promise of building a Netflix Engineering Center, which will employ only a few dozen workers?

Dear Mr Prime Minister,

Given the above circumstances, we would like to make another request for a meeting with you and have the opportunity to present our position. We believe that you will find time for the representation of Polish filmmakers, just like you found time to meet with Reed Hastings. We kindly ask you to indicate a convenient date for this meeting.

Yours sincerely,

Board of Directors of the Polish Filmmakers Association
Board of Directors Guild of Poland
Board of the Polish Screenwriters Guild
Management Board of the Society of Cinematographers
The Board of the National Chamber of Audiovisual Producers
The Board of the Polish Producers Guild
The Board of the Polish Actors' Trade Union
The Board of the Professional Association of Filmmakers
The Board of the Polish Editors Association
The Board of the Editing and Post-production Guild
The Board of Directors of the Polish Documentary Directors Guild
The Board of the Association of Women Filmmakers
President of the Polish Film Academy
The Association of Authors and Audiovisual Producers

For the attention of:

Mr. President Jaroslaw Kaczynski
Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers
President of the Law and Justice Party

Mr. Piotr Gliński
Minister of Culture and National Heritage