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BASCA ask Bulgarian Ambassador for support in the protection of copyright

Nitin Sawhney and Mira Calix join BASCA representatives at the Bulgarian Embassy

BASCA delivers letter to the Bulgarian Ambassador to ask for support in the protection of copyright.

On January 1, 2018, a decade after its accession to the EU, Bulgaria took over the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU For six months. Bulgaria is now the main driving force for the tasks on the agenda of the Union, performing the functions of an objective mediator and political leader.  Yesterday (13/02/18) BASCA Chair Crispin Hunt, BASCA CEO Vick Bain and members Nitin Sawhney and Mira Calix visited the Bulgarian Embassy in West London to personally deliver a letter to the Ambassador and ask for his country’s support for future creativity and culture in Europe.

One of the key priorities on the agenda of the Bulgarian Presidency is the Digital Single Market; in particular copyright legislation which aims to harmonise the essential rights of authors and of performers, publishers and broadcasters.  The EU needs modern copyright rules fit for the digital age. The Copyright Directive in the Digital Single Market is the first update of copyright legislation for 20 years.  The European Commission has presented legislative proposals to make sure that consumers and creators can make the most of the digital world and ensure a fairer market place for online content.  BASCA has campaigned consistently for the past few years to ensure that the wording of this legislation will best protect and support songwriters and composers.

BASCA CEO Vick Bain says “The Copyright Directive is in now its final stages and so it is vitally important the voice of the music creators and performers are heard at the highest level.   That is why BASCA organised a meeting with the Bulgarian Ambassador in order to ensure our points of concern over the future of music and culture in the EU are delivered directly to the Bulgarian Presidency”.

BASCA member Nitin Sawhney comments “Campaigning to ensure songwriters and composers are protected and can earn a liveable income from digital platforms such as YouTube and Spotify is an essential aspect of the BASCA mandate. In that regard, it was an honour yesterday to meet with the Bulgarian Ambassador and ensure the voice of songwriters and composers was heard in this important debate”.

The letter reads:

Dear Ambassador Dimitrov,

We are writing to you today on behalf of 2,200 of the United Kingdom’s top songwriters and composers to ask for your support in securing the best possible legal framework for the protection of future creativity and culture in Europe. We acknowledge the rich and wonderful musical heritage of the Bulgarian people and know you will share a common interest in wishing to protect it.

Music is an essential expression of European cultural identity and a robust copyright regime, coupled with strong accountability across all Creator Rights, is essential if the EU is to protect musicians and composers. Europe’s creative industries have flourished because we have had sensible laws in place to allow a fair and competitive market for content; but the growing domination of the digital environment means those laws are now in urgent need of modernising. One of your stated priorities for the presidency is the Digital Single Market. The Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market is that opportunity for modernisation.

In 2015, YouTube accounted for 40% of overall online music consumption but only 4% of revenue. They claim to have paid out $1billion to music industry last year, but that only equates to $1 per user per year. Compare that to the $17 per user per annum returned from streaming services like Spotify and you begin to see the inequity in the market. After a 20% cut from Google Ads YouTube takes another 45% of all advertising income on its platform. The owners of the video and the sound recording share the remainder with finally, songwriters and composers, getting a fraction of the revenue their work generates. And that is only if the works attract advertising; where there is no direct advertising then the creator gets nothing. YouTube is arguably the biggest and probably the best streaming service on the planet, yet it avoids paying properly for the content it serves by exploiting an outdated legal loophole that fails to reflect contemporary consumption habits; Safe Harbour. That is why YouTube is valued at over $70bn yet EU composers and songwriters have to share a fraction of $0.0007 per stream.

Likewise, with Facebook. Last year Forbes valued Facebook at over $400 billion, the 6th most valuable company in the world. Last year they declared over $35 billion in advertising revenue and over 2 billion monthly users of the service. Facebook are only now concluding licensing deals with the major record labels and publishers; yet music has been a key driver of their platform offer for years. We are not privy to the terms of the deal for the majors because of non-disclosure agreements but independent publishers have suggested the licenses are being constructed in such a way to avoid liability or ultimately to pay royalties.

In the Copyright Directive we have a chance to make these platforms secure proper licensing deals for all music used on their service through Article 13. This is a once in a generation opportunity to correct the ‘value gap’; the gap between how much value the platforms take from music and the value returned to the creators for the use of their works.. The Bulgarian Presidency is working on a compromise for Article 13; creators prefer the option that clarifies that the platforms, or online content sharing service providers, such as YouTube and Facebook ‘communicate to the public’ and for the Safe Harbour limitation to be more focused. This will bring them into the music value chain and will correct the drain of the value of European cultural talent and return any benefit to Europe.

There are also other measures in place in the Directive in Articles 14, 15 and 16 that are essential for the future protection of creators and citizen creators and to strengthen their negotiating power to achieve a fairer and more balanced marketplace for their work. The Directive has acknowledged the often-insurmountable difference in power between an individual composer and an international broadcast company in contractual negotiations for their works. These will go some way to correcting this power imbalance and include further obligations towards transparency, a contract adjustment mechanism (in case of a failure to exploit or proportionately share the rewards of success) and a dispute resolution system.

Now Bulgaria is leading the Council’s work; your support for the sensible and timely creator friendly reforms included in this Directive is crucial to maintaining a healthy and sustainable environment for the entire European musical community. As your chosen motto states ‘United We Stand Strong’, we at BASCA certainly hope that Bulgaria will unite with the Creators of Europe to ensure that we can indeed continue to stand strong in the Global Creative Market.

 

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