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Helmers’ copyright quest hits obstacle

Authorship rights denied, but Oz org to get public inquiry

SYDNEY — Australian directors’ long-running quest for copyright ownership of their work suffered a setback when opposition parties in the Senate last week withdrew an amendment that would have conferred authorship rights to directors.

Nonetheless, the Australian Screen Directors Assn. claimed a breakthrough in that opposition parties extracted a promise from the conservative federal government to hold a public inquiry into including helmers in the copyright laws.

“Australia’s directors are acclaimed internationally and have made a major contribution to the local film and TV industry,” said federal arts minister Peter McGauran. “They are vital to the production of outstanding Australian films and deserve appropriate recognition.”

Risk-taking

But Screen Producers Assn. of Australia executive director Nick Herd, who opposes such moves, asserted that “copyright in the film rightly rests with the production company that takes the financial risk and manages the commercial exploitation.”

ASDA topper Richard Harris questions how much risk Australian producers really take, however, when most films are government-backed.

Harris said that, unlike with producers, writers and other creatives, Oz helmers are unfairly excluded from sharing in ancillary revenues, which can often be more significant than box office for Oz films. He said while Europe recognizes helmers as authors, ASDA would accept something like the new U.K. system, which has directors and producers as co-authors.

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