The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has finalised a new treaty for audiovisual performers which will strengthen the economic rights of film actors.

The Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances will potentially enable performers to share international audiovisual revenue with producers as well as grant performers moral rights to prevent lack of attribution or distortion of their performances. It ends 12 years of negotiations – the 1996 WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty granted economic and moral rights to recording artists but negotiations for audiovisual performers’ work stalled.

“The conclusion of the Beijing Treaty is an important milestone toward closing the gap in the international rights system for audiovisual performers and reflects the collaborative nature of the multilateral process,” WIPO director general Francis Gurry said in a statement. He noted that “the international copyright framework will no longer discriminate against one set of performers.”

The act was signed by 131 WIPO member states and the treaty by 46 member states, including the United States, France, Spain and conference host country, the People's Republic of China. Australian representatives at the conference included Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) Equity president Simon Burke and Screen Producers Association of Australia (SPAA) senior policy consultant Julie Marlow.

“It was an enormous honour to speak on behalf of hundreds of thousands of performers around the world and it was an emotional moment in the room when the treaty was finally passed” Burke said in a statement. “The treaty finally provides performers with the recognition they deserve, allowing them to better protect their livelihoods and their image”.

Marlow said: "After 12 years in negotiation SPAA welcomes the successful conclusion of the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances which has been a tremendous collaborative effort this week in Beijing. SPAA is honoured to have been part of this historic occasion working closely together with our international colleagues and the MEAA in Australia to give performers around the world their due economic rights".

The treaty will enter into force once it has been ratified by 30 eligible parties, including countries or certain intergovernmental organisations. The MEAA and SPAA said the Australian Government must now ratify the treaty as soon as possible.

The International Federation of Actors (FIA) said the conclusion of the treaty marks the end of 15 years of hard work by FIA and its member unions. The Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA) also said it supported the adoption of the treaty.

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