Working for future generations: challenges and prospects of intellectual property in Armenia
Armenia is one of the oldest centers of world civilization, a country with a rich culture and centuries-old traditions. Armenian monasteries and churches are included in the UNESCO world heritage list, and poetry, frescoes and crafts are known far beyond the borders of the CIS. We have interviewed Susanna Nersisyan, General Director of the Armenian copyright society Armauthor, and touched the development of modern culture in Armenia, relations between authors, copyright holders and users, and the peculiarities of system of collective rights management in the country.
– Dear Mrs. Nersisyan, please tell us about the system of intellectual property protection in your country.
– The first steps towards the formation of the national system of intellectual property protection in the Republic of Armenia were the establishment of the Patent office under the Government of the Republic of Armenia in January 1992 and the National copyright Agency in December 1993. In March 2002, the two bodies merged to form the Intellectual Property Agency, which became a separate division of the Ministry of Economic Development and Investment of the Republic of Armenia. It provides services in the field of intellectual property.
The only organization that performs collective copyright management is the non-profit non-governmental organization “Armauthor”, which was established in 2001. It operates in accordance with the law “On copyright and related rights”, as well as through international agreements. According to the legislation of the Republic of Armenia, state accreditation is not required.
– What role does Armauthor play in regulating the sphere of copyright in Armenia?
As I have already said, Armauthor relies on legal norms and its’ Charter. According to them, the organization takes measures to charge royalties to authors, concludes bilateral cooperation agreements with partners from different countries, conducts explanatory work with authors, users, students, officials and the press in order to promote copyright in Armenia.
– What are the priority areas for Armauthor?
We must always look ahead and think not only about those who already enjoy fame, but also about the younger generation, thanks to which business and culture will flourish in the future on the territory of our country.
– How do you assess the results of Armauthor’s work in the field of collective management of the rights of authors and rightholders in 2019?
– Our organization performs a very important function for authors and rightholders, as for many of them, the royalties paid through our Armauthor are a significant financial support. We understand this, so we are taking various measures to increase the amount of royalties and support the system of collective rights management in Armenia. As a result of these efforts, the amount of royalties collected increased by more than 19% in 2019.
One of the main areas of our activity last year was working closely with authors. It was not limited to collecting, distributing, and paying fees. Employees of the author’s department maintained constant contact with authors and rightholders, provided full information about the results of their work and the use of their works. As in previous years, Armauthor celebrated the anniversaries of its members and provided assistance to authors who were in a difficult financial situation.
We also continued to work on creating an author’s cabinet – this program should help bring the author closer to the organization. Thanks to it, any member of Armauthor, regardless of their location, is able to get information about income, paid fees, deductions, and so on.
The number of authors who have expressed a desire to cooperate with us has also increased. So, during 2019, 48 new agreements were signed with the copyright holders on the transfer of rights to the Armauthor. There were 1,688 such agreements at the end of last year.
We continued to perform our most basic and complex function – signing license agreements with users. During the year, we worked intensively with all the objects that already had licensing agreements with Armauthor – theaters, TV and radio companies, cable operators, concert organizations. Thanks to strict measures and joint efforts over the past year, it was possible to identify many new users and conclude the agreements with them. Unfortunately, we have to emphasize once again that the instability in the country affects negatively on our activities. Armauthor’s inspectors constantly face problems related to the refusal to cooperate on the part of restaurants, discos and concert producers.
– Recently, the media reported on significant problems in protection of authors ‘ rights in Armenia. Tell us more about this.
– Indeed, rights are violated everywhere-both moral and economic. Rightholders do not take the necessary measures, there is no confidence in the judicial authorities, which ultimately leads to a decrease in economic indicators and the potential of culture in Armenia.
Lately the press, television and radio often address this topic. We welcome this fact and cooperate with them. The overall goal is to reduce the level of infringing of intellectual property, improve the protection of copyright and industrial property, increase the level of activity of the rightholders, and bring the issue to the attention of judges.
– What is the role of Armauthor in the anti-piracy activity? What is the mechanism of interaction with market participants and regulators in this field?
– As mentioned above, Armauthor does everything to ensure that the authors ‘ rights are not violated in practice and that each user is aware of their responsibilities. In agreement with the rightholders, the Armauthor sometimes performs additional functions to prevent violations.
– What legislative changes have been recently adopted in Armenia for the development of copyright and creative industries?
– Currently, the law “On Copyright And Related Rights” is being reviewed in our country . All changes and suggestions are considered by rightholders, users and officials. The project takes into account all international norms and new spheres of activity, and introduces stricter security and protection measures.
The law was adopted in 1996. Individual articles regulated the rules for the creation of non-profit organizations of authors, and considered the functions and tasks of these organizations. Since then, it has been revised three times, and now it is the fourth time. The draft law provides for changes in articles related to CMOs, and International norms such as the EU Directive of 2014 and the professional requirements CISAC were taken into account.
Here are some details some on significant changes that were made to the new draft legislation. First, CMOs are now required to receive state accreditation. The draft law considers the conditions and rules for granting accreditation to existing or newly created CMOs, sets the license validity term of five years, provides for the control and accountability of CMOs to the state Agency, and a number of other conditions.
Secondly, the draft law regulates the status of these organizations. They must be non-commercial and non-governmental, created by the authors or other rightholders, and must act in their interests. There are also provisions and principles of the Charter, namely: the terms of membership,the terms and principles for collection and distribution of royalties, terms of license agreements, the principles of deductions from the collected amounts. The draft law focuses on accountability and reporting to authors and users, establishes mechanisms of transparency of these activities.
For example, to create transparency, it is necessary to publish annual reports, develop internal rules and make them available to each author, provide each author with information about collections and conduct audits. It is also important to set deadlines for general assemblies, consider claims and complaints from copyright holders, create websites, and constantly update them. The draft law pays focuses as well on the regulation of the rights of audiovisual works, as well as computer programs.
Armenia does not remain aloof from international agreements. We have submitted to the Ministry of foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia a set of documents necessary for joining the Beijing agreement on audiovisual performances and the Marrakesh agreement “On facilitating access to published works for the blind and visually impaired persons” . The EAEC agreement on collective management of copyright and related rights, signed in Moscow in November 2017, has passed the internal procedures required for ratification in Armenia and has been submitted to the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia.
– You are actively engaged in international activities. Tell us about your key partners and projects.
In 2019, the organization’s international activities were expanded and contacts with foreign partners were strengthened. Our employees have repeatedly participated in many events organized by WIPO, CISAC and CRSEA. From May 21-22, 2019, Armauthor participated in the workshop “Collective management of Copyright and Related Rights”, organized by the Intellectual Property Agency of the Republic of Armenia and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Yerevan. During the event, the issues of copyright and related rights, study of problems in this area, international experience, the role and significance of CMOs were discussed.
We express our sincere gratitude onbehalf of our team to our partners for the fruitful cooperation with Armauthor.
– What is the role of digital technology solutions in Armauthor’s practical work?
We pay great attention to the automation of the organization’s activities. We continue to distribute the collected royalties through COSIS electronic program. Unfortunately, due to the inaccurate and unclear presentation of programs by the users, the distribution of royalties for Armenian authors still had to be carried out manually.
We have created and implemented a new system for recording authors and rightholders. In their daily work, employees of the author’s Department use IPI and WID programs. Our accounting department also uses an automated system for transferring royalties to the individual account of each author, which significantly accelerated the process of processing and bringing the royalties to the authors. Thanks to the introduction of new technologies, authors can get full information about the collections, distributions and transfer of their fees in a short time. All Armauthor’s accounting is submitted to various services – tax authorities, state organizations, statistical offices and other organizations, these reporting was also conducted using the automated system.
– How did the consequences of the pandemic affect the cultural sphere of Armenia? Have the cultural industries received state support?
– Yes, the Government of Armenia has provided financial assistance to creators. Grants were provided for musicians and other artists. In turn, Armauthor continues to work remotely.