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Mexico: Challenges and Opportunities in One of Latin America's Most Powerful Audiovisual Industries

By Ulises Román Rodríguez

The influence and power of the Mexican audiovisual industry are known worldwide. From the successful films of Mario Moreno "Cantinflas" in the 1940s and 1950s to the soap operas that have captivated millions of viewers around the world. To these works, we must add the talent of contemporary audiovisual creators such as Arturo Ripstein, Alfonso Cuarón, Guillermo del Toro, Alejandro González Iñarritu or Tatiana Huezo. Also, successes from platforms like Luis Miguel series, which counts Daniel Krauze among its screenwriters.

Such production and visibility made it necessary for societies to emerge to support and protect the creators of these stories. Thus, in 1963, the ( was founded, one of the precursor societies of author’s rights in Mexico that defends the rights of authors of cinematographic and audiovisual works and promotes collective management.

In 1976, writers did the same with the creation of the General Society of Writers of Mexico (SOGEM) to promote and disseminate the literary and intellectual production of its members, but also to manage the registration of their works, provide legal protection in defense of author’s rights, collect and distribute royalties generated by their works, and legally represent their associates in television, cinema, radio, theater, and literature.

Roma (2018), directed by Alfonso Cuarón, winner of three Academy Awards

But when it comes to finding a legal framework for protecting the authorship of writers, one must go back to January 1948 when the Federal Law on Author’s Rights entered into force, which had been promulgated on December 31, 1947, offering authors numerous rights. However, that law was repealed by the Federal Author’s Rights Law of 1996, which came into force on March 25, 1997.

Gerardo Luna Islas, president of the Board of Directors of SOGEM, tells AV Creators News that the "first law had many benefits for writers. And with it, SOGEM was the only collective management society authorized by law to collect royalties for everyone on behalf of the authors. However, in 1997, there was a legal setback because we were limited by law to associations collecting for everyone in representation. It was a setback because we had to request notarial powers from the writers to represent them and collect royalties. That's why the amount of collection decreased, and of course, we had many difficulties in representing many writers."

Gerardo Luna Islas, president of SOGEM

The Author’s Rights Law establishes that creators can generate royalties and obliges users of creators to pay. However, article 83 of the current law introduces "a limitation where it conditions that payment to be established in the contract from the beginning, that is, we have to include a clause reserving public communication so that the royalty payment is effective. Then this horrendous figure comes into play, which is the commissioned work, and if it is not established from the beginning in the contract and we do not reserve the right to collect those royalties, then we cannot collect them," emphasizes Luna Islas.

The Situation of the Audiovisual Author

The legal modification led to the need to have "a notarial power to represent our authors. But commissioned works are a disgrace because in those commissioned works, they no longer have all those rights, they no longer have a license, it's already 'I take the child away from you and forget about it.' What we have done from SOGEM is that if you want to take the child away, you must pay like in the United States. Do you want all the rights, do you want to have it for life? OK, let's leave the licenses and let's see how the percentages are in the United States because what you are asking for is an excellent adaptation with a very low price. Pay us like in the United States, and if you don't want to pay me like in the United States, then at least include the clause reserving public communication so that the authors continue to collect," explains Gloria López Cruz, director of audiovisuals at the entity to AV Creators News.

Despite this setback, a few years ago, and thanks to the management of Víctor Hugo Rascón Banda - then president of SOGEM - audiovisual authors in Mexico have "a benefit difficult to find in other countries in the world," says López Cruz.

At that time, agreements were signed with Televisa and Televisión Azteca after extraordinary negotiations, "which allow authors to collect royalties in advance" even regardless of whether the soap opera, program, unit, or film is broadcast or not.

Understanding that they have the Author’s Rights Law of 1997 against them, SOGEM multiplies actions to accompany its associates.

In this regard, Gloria López Cruz clarifies that they are focused on "assisting authors in a personalized way, raising awareness among them that royalty rights are the only thing they will have. Authorshave no retirement, no social benefits, no vacations, absolutely nothing. What has this SOGEM team done? Raise awareness among them to defend their author’s rights."

Gloria López Cruz - Directora de audiovisuales de SOGEM

Through agreements with similar entities worldwide, SOGEM also settles the author’s rights of foreign writers whose works are reproduced in Mexico by having clauses reserving public communication and gives them the same national treatment as the agreements of Mexican authors.

Despite understanding that they have the law against them, SOGEM achieved the highest collection in a long time, and the society seeks to respond to its associates by ensuring prompt payment of royalties, which is paid weekly: "we do not wait three or six months. What is collected today is paid immediately the following week."

Rights and New Technologies

When referring to the situation facing the Mexican audiovisual industry, López Cruz affirms that "the global market outlook is prosperous, that is, major producers like Amazon, Disney, are establishing themselves in Mexico. Even Colombian producers will come to establish themselves because there are many productions here," but she warns that "they come with strange ideas of evading author’s rights. So it's a contradiction, there is more production, but as there is more lack of control, there are many young people who do not know their rights, who are not associated with SOGEM, and then there, the producers and these platforms are taking advantage.

In that context, the society's work "is to raise awareness among all those young writers, especially those who are recruited by the platforms. And it's a contradiction, there is more production of series and others, but society still does not have control of those writers who are looking for work," says López Cruz, who has been working in the Audiovisual Department of SOGEM for more than 4 decades.

Mindful of new technologies and the increasingly frequent use of AI in the creative process, the entity has also paid attention to the issue and expressed concern about it.

Gloria López Cruz explains that "we must find the formula to identify those original contents with which new works were fed, but in reality, we need to know the origin to have a fair distribution of author’s rights because it is protected, but we do not know where it is, that is a struggle not only of Mexico but of the world."


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