Authors' associations dispute copyright compensation at Supreme Court

Priit Lätt
Priit Lätt Source: PwC Legal

Nine Estonian creative people's representative organizations have disputed the Tallinn Circuit Court's judgment made in June regarding the so-called blank media levy, in a bid to ensure fair compensation to Estonian authors and the protection of Estonian culture and creative works.

"Estonia is still one of the countries where creative people are paid the least copyright fees in the world. The organizations can't agree with compensation three times smaller than in other EU member states," Priit Lätt, a sworn advocate atlaw firm PwC Legal, representing nine Estonian creative people's representative organizations in the dispute, noted.

"The central question in the dispute is whether the state will compensate for the damage created, which in turn; will it ensure the survival of Estonian culture. The decision by the circuit court is a step towards awakening the extinct fee system, but it is not enough to ensure the protection of Estonian culture and creative output, and to follow the EU's required minimum," Lätt said.

On June 30, The Tallinn Circuit Court overturned a previous decision by the administrative court, and tripled the figure to close to €3.5 million for fair compensation, which Estonia's creative people hadn't received during the period 2014-2018, due to the inadequate regulation of the so-called blank media levy which artists are entitled to according to EU law.

The court ordered the state to pay €3.5 million in an action by the authors' organizations over the blank media levy for the monies they had not received during the five years. A fine of €656 per day will be added to the sum until the full payment of the compensation.

"Although the circuit court increased the compensation sum significantly, the court's unwillingness to accept the right of Estonian creative people for compensation higher than the EU average was disappointing," Lätt said.

Lätt added that based on the fee rates established in the Copyright Act, the compensation should be significantly larger.

The dispute dates back to the autumn of 2018 when nine Estonian creative organizations: The Estonian Authors' Association, Estonian Phonogram Producers' Association, Estonian Performers' Association, Estonian Audiovisual Authors' Association, Estonian Composers' Association, Estonian Performers' Association, Estonian Directors and Playwrights' Association and the Estonian Performers' decided to go to court against the Republic of Estonia in connection with the fair compensation for the reproduction of the work for personal use, meaning the compensation for copyright, for the years 2014–2018.

According to statistics, the amount of copyright compensation for creative people in various countries of the world is constantly growing, and its operation is based on state regulation. For example, according to a 2018 report by the Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC), the amount of fair compensation collected worldwide for 2017 has increased by 33.3 percent compared with 2016, and by as much as 141 percent between 2013 and 2017. The average private copyright allowance collected in the EU Member States in 2015 was €1.42 per person. In Estonia, the corresponding indicator has been €0 for the last six years. According to the circuit court, Estonian rights holders are entitled to compensation of €0.45 per person.

In addition to the representative organizations of creative people, the government also filed a cassation appeal with the Supreme Court. An appeal against a decision of a circuit court means that the dispute has not yet been finally resolved.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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