Less than a year ago you elected me to this job. Since then I have suffered obsession with UNICA, sleepless nights and raised blood-pressure. Thank you very much. My life has changed in a way in which I think only previous Presidents and General Secretaries can understand.
Many of you know that a much-respected Swiss film-maker well-known to his national organisation copied a film from television, put his name on the credits and entered it into competition. It had success in Switzerland. They sent it to the UNICA festival in Fieberbrunn, where it also had success. But the French Federation recognised the theft. It took UNICA time to check the facts, to challenge the film maker and strip him of his award. Last year there was a similar case in the German organisation. The BDFA was threatened with an enormous charge by Sony Television. They escaped that penalty, because they had a form signed by the author. They could prove that they had acted in good faith.
We rushed to produce forms and to explain it to the member organisations. I thank all of your national organisations and officers, who made great efforts to follow the new system. It was particularly difficult for the French Federation, because they make their choice of films almost a year ahead, and some of their authors were away on holiday, when they tried to reach them to get a signature.
There is no perfect protection in the world, but the expert tells us, that this is the best for UNICA. We had to go ahead before asking your permission. I regret that. But I do not regret taking action to protect the future of UNICA.
It was a difficult year. We began by losing a long-standing President, Georges Fondeur, and an even longer-serving General Secretary, Jan Essing. We also lost two very experienced committee members: Alois Urbanek and Rolf Leuenberger.
In a team of eleven people, five were completely new to the committee, and one, Mr. Lindner, had only served one year. We had a lot to learn. During the year we have sent countless emails, Skype messages and phone calls around the world, but we have only been able to meet in person twice. During each UNICA Congress we have several meetings but between them only two.
Our first meeting was mainly spent getting to know each other, discovering our strengths and interests and making the first plans for action. Our second meeting was mainly concerned with the problem of what my predecessor called “plagiarism”, and I prefer to call “theft”.
As a committee we had to make sure we could protect the UNICA. If UNICA should be faced with such a fine, it would wipe out all of the financial reserves. Because we are not a limited company, it would also empty the bank accounts of the President and the General Secretary. Since we are not legal experts, we employed (at a very good rate through personal contacts of our Treasurer) a senior partner in a Swiss law firm which specialises in copyright cases. He gave us very detailed advice. That is why we now insist, that we get a form signed personally by each film-maker, before we can show the film at UNICA.
I began with the negative side of being president. The good side is being with our committee. This is a fine team of people. And we have equally good enthusiasts representing the nations. It has been my pleasure to visit several of your national festivals in the last year and to meet even more of your officials, committee and members.
Our world-wide movement is strong. Your committee is more settled, we recognise the problems to tackle and how we can interact. We look forward to making improvements in the future.
- Dave Watterson, Bath, August 2016