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Landmark ruling backs copyright users

By Luis C. Schmidt
Partner
Managing Intellectual Property, May 10, 2007
Cinemas and other organizations that deal with collecting societies are celebrating a victory in Mexico’s Supreme Court.
In a rare intervention in copyright law, the Court said that authors can assign their remuneration right to third parties without limitations.
The April 16 decision means that rights transferred to producers of audiovisual or musical works can be exploited by them without the authors also seeking monetary compensation in addition to their existing patrimonial rights.
The five-four vote is a victory for cinemas, which had challenged the legality of a 2003 amendments to the Copyright Law in two separate cases brought by Cinemex and Cinemas La Huesteca.
The cinemas argued that the bill as passed by Congress was unconstitutional. They said the legislation was unclear about whether authors still retained the right to seek monetary compensation for their works despite transferring rights to a third party (such as a collecting society): specifically, the bill said that authors and their assignees had the right to receive a royalty which was not subject to waiver, for public performances.
The ruling also resolves a conflict between the Court’s two chambers, which had previously given contradictory verdicts over whether remuneration rights could be assigned to third parties, other than on death.
Luis Schmidt, of Olivares & Cia, who represented the copyright users, told MIP Week the decision brings clarity to a confused area: “This decision affirms a more international, Treaty-based, view of copyright as a balanced right in which it is not only authors who have rights. They are part of a system”.
In that sense, he said it is a move towards a more American-style view of copyright as an economic right, rather than the traditional French/European-style view of copyright as a moral right.