CISAC, the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers, is moving into the 21st century with a new structure more capable of representing its members' interests in a fast-changin

SEOUL, Korea -- CISAC, the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers, is moving into the 21st century with a new structure more capable of representing its members' interests in a fast-changing copyright environment.

At CISAC's general assembly Oct. 20, the body's members voted on statutes that will create a streamlined, less bureaucratic organization.

The heart of the changes is the combination of CISAC's existing administrative council and executive bureau into a single board of directors. The board will have 20 members and will comprise executives of member societies, with guaranteed regional and repertoire representation.

Frances Preston, who is now president emerita for U.S. rights society BMI, addressed the new statutes in her Oct. 21 oral presentation on behalf of the North American Committee of CISAC. "The steps we have taken here today in modernizing the statutes of CISAC give us important new tools to secure the rights of our creators," she said.

Cees Vervoord, CEO of Dutch authors' society Buma/Stemra, was elected to the new position of chairman of the board of directors at the general assembly. Brett Cottle, CEO of Australian society APRA, was elected first vice chairman, and German society CEO Bild-Kunst Gerhard Pfennig was elected second vice chairman. Their office terms were set at three years.

CISAC secretary general Eric Baptiste, whose title will change to director general as part of the confederation's new configuration, tells ELW that the board will be run more like a corporation.

"The board will be less Euro-centric and less music-centric," Baptiste adds. He notes that CISAC's membership includes filmmakers, writers and other creators who are not from the music field and that this diversity will be better represented within the board. However, he also notes that more than 90% of the $7.5 billion in annual collections by CISAC member societies is from the music field.

The assembly also voted to keep Christian Bruhn, chairman of German society GEMA, as its president, and to keep Victor Hugo Rascon Banda, chairman of Mexican society SOGEM, as vice president. CISAC members also approved a measure stipulating that its president and VP be creators, i.e., authors, composers or others directly involved in creative work.

CISAC's members also voted to have the general assembly meet annually, instead of every two years.

The CISAC Congress will be held every third year following that year's general assembly; the board of directors will meet three or four times per year. The next general assembly will take place in 2005; the next Congress will be in 2007.

Seminar speakers at the general assembly repeatedly emphasized how various programs being developed to protect authors' rights need to be convenient, simple and cost-effective to become widely accepted.

Several speakers, including Bruhn and Eduardo Bautista, president of CISAC's executive bureau and chief executive of Spanish society SGAE, noted that copyrights and authors' protection are necessary for maintaining cultural diversity around the world.

"Cultural diversity is one of the main processes for constructing a world of tolerance," Bautista said. "But cultural diversity is only possible if you respect authors' rights."

Bae Jhong Shin, vice minister of the Korean Ministry of Culture and Tourism, emphasized the challenges and opportunities facing creators from new media. "The Internet age is a constant threat to authors' rights," Bae said. "For this reason, the time has come to set up an adequate international system to protect authors' rights."

Malaysian society MACP GM Chan Miew Lan noted that Asia, with 3.4 billion people but only $1.05 billion in revenue for creators' societies in 2003, has great potential for growth.

CISAC Asia-Pacific regional director Ang Kwee Tiang pointed out that the last time CISAC held a congress in Asia was in 1984 in Tokyo. "We feel it's a big deal for us to hold the congress in Seoul," Ang said. "It signifies that there has been a lot of progress in the last 20 years in collective management of rights, and it lets people know that there is great potential [in Asia] -- that there's much more to be done regarding collections."

Ang said CISAC has played a key role in nurturing authors' societies in Asia, citing the confederation's role in training personnel at local societies, holding educational seminars on copyright and lobbying governments for increased copyright protection.

CISAC was founded in 1926 in France, where its worldwide headquarters remain. From an initial group of 18 founding members, the non-governmental, nonprofit organization now counts 209 member bodies from 108 countries, representing more than 2 million creators.

Baptiste noted that the changes mark the first time since 1966 that CISAC has undergone a major revamp. "What has been achieved [in Seoul] is very important," he said, "but it is by no means the end of the story."