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Canal Plus Lashes Back at Lawsuit by French Authors Over Royalty Payments

Variety logo Variety 7/7/2017 Elsa Keslassy
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PARIS – French pay-TV giant Canal Plus Group has lashed back at a lawsuit over its alleged failure to pay royalties for months, saying that it strongly supported authors and suggesting that royalty-collection agencies needed to be audited.

Several French guilds representing authors, composers, and music publishers filed suit against Canal Plus earlier this week, contending that the company breached its contracts by withholding royalties. On Friday, Canal Plus said in a statement that its support of authors was incontestable because it remains “the country’s primary financier of creative content in France with more than 800 million euros ($912 million) invested every year, including 330 million euros invested in films and TV works.”

The suit alleges that Canal Plus stopped paying authors in order to spur a renegotiation of its contracts with the guilds and to obtain a bargain on overdue royalties as part of the company’s plan to save 300 million euros by 2018. Canal Plus is believed to owe an estimated 50 million euros to these guilds, which are in charge of collecting royalties and redistributing them to authors.

Canal Plus said it would “keep financing and promoting authors and hope[d] to find an agreement with collection agencies,” but its statement does not indicate that a deal will be reached in the short term.

The pay-TV group also suggested the need for the collection agencies to be audited to ensure that authors receive the totality of their royalties.

The company, which is owned by Vivendi, is currently struggling financially and said it “must examine the whole of its expenses.” It says that, in the past, it had “put an end to several abuses which threatened its financial well-being by taking a close look at its spendings.”

The SACD (authors and composers society) issued a swift reply, saying that “blaming the authors’ societies for [Canal Plus’] present crisis is not a credible and viable argument considering the large numbers of reports that have come out about problems plaguing Canal Plus Group and hurting its financial health.”

In its letter, SACD cited Canal Plus’ failure to renew rights to high-profile sports events, plummeting subscriber base, lawsuits from former employees, programs being canceled and contractual conflicts with producers.

The guild also cited Françoise Nyssen, Minister of Culture, who spoke in favor of the guilds Thursday. Nyssen said that, as one of France’s top sources of financing for creative content, Canal Plus could not duck its commitments toward authors.

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