This week, the internet is even more preoccupied with itself than normal, as focus turns to an upcoming European Parliamentary vote which could affect some of its biggest brands and corporations.
PRS for Music’s M magazine have published a feature aimed at debunking the fake news circulating around Article 13/Copyright Directive, ahead of the EU vote next week.
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.
Alongside UK Music, BASCA members and leading figures from the music industry launched a successful parliamentary battle to save music venues from closure.
On 10th January 2018, the Government announced a dramatic change to the handling of music venues across the UK, by strengthening planning rules and supporting the protection of independent venues under threat.
At the conclusion of negotiations led by UK Music, Mr Javid promised major changes to the nationwide planning policies that the Government expects planning authorities to legally comply with.
The campaign for the proposed new law attracted cross-party support from politicians and music stars including Sir Paul McCartney, Brian Eno, Chrissie Hynde, Nick Mason, Sandie Shaw, Nadine Shah, Ray Davies, Imogen Heap, Billy Bragg, Feargal Sharkey and Craig David.
UK Music’s plan was backed by at least 75 MPs and peers including former Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, as well as organisations including BASCA, the Music Venue Trust the Musicians’ Union.
The new legislation means that developers will have to take account of the impact of any new scheme on pre-existing businesses like music venues before going ahead with their plans. This could mean, for example, the developer of new flats takes responsibility for soundproofing to avoid the risk of new neighbours complaining about noise from a music venue.
The new law was proposed by Labour MP and former Government Minister John Spellar who will table his Planning (Agent of Change) Bill in the House of Commons on Wednesday January 10 after the photo-call.
Among the venues that had to fight closure threats in the past are London’s iconic Ministry of Sound and the 100 Club. Venues that face similar threats today include Bristol venues, the Thekla, the Fiddlers and the Fleece. Campaigners are also battling to protect the Womanby Street music quarter in Cardiff from developers.
With this new legislation coming into play, the music industry’s contribution to the UK economy will continue to grow.
UK Music Chief Executive Michael Dugher said: “The UK music industry contributes more than £4 billion to our economy and brings pleasure to millions of people at home and overseas. It’s time for the Government to get behind the legislation and help save the venues that are such a crucial part of the music industry.”
John Spellar said: “Fewer venues means less work, less opportunity to develop talent or even find out that you are not going to make it in the industry, but also to move up from amateur to part-time, to full-time, to national or even international stardom. If the present situation does not change, we are in danger of taking away the ladder that has served individual musicians and the Music Industry so well for so long.”
Sir Paul McCartney said: “Without the grassroots clubs, pubs and music venues my career could have been very different. If we don’t support music at this level, then the future of music in general is in danger.”
Chrissie Hynde said: “When I heard of the impending threat to small venues, my heart skipped a beat
It isn’t talent shows on television or theatre schools that propagate great music, it’s small venues. They’re the setting of everything great that’s come out of the music scene in this country, from the Beatles to Oasis and beyond. England has long led the world of popular music; the rest of the world follow England. If small venues shut down, so will England’s unique creative output. It will be like locking up playgrounds at schools. The whole world will suffer, not just England.”
Craig David said: “As an artist I’m concerned that music venues are facing unprecedented threats and it is a matter of great concern to us all. I give my strong support for proposals to change planning law so that we can keep music live.”
Songwriters Protest ‘Moral Rights’ Issue to Recording Industry Association of America in Strongly Worded Open Letter
‘Moral rights’ for anyone unfamiliar with the concept have been enshrined in the UK’s legislative framework since 1928. The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works outlined 3 basic rights for songwriters and composers; that of the right to be recognised as the author of a work, the right to object to being named as something you haven’t written and the right to object to derogatory treatment.
Now whilst all are important for creators the first one is paramount. Even if you assign or licence your works, as you must if you want to earn an income from your music, you should always be credited as the creator. At present there are 172 signatory countries out of about 192 countries in the world today. We do have specific issues in this new digital world where streaming and downloading platforms do not have the ability to search for songwriters and songwriters are not included in the visible metadata for users; this is something we are campaigning very vocally about and will continue to do so until these services get with the picture and update and improve their services – for both the writers and fans.
However, even though the US signed up to the Berne Convention in 1989 it chooses NOT to recognise moral rights, saying they are confusing. There really isn’t anything confusing about crediting the original creator of a song folks!! So understandably the writer organisations in the US get very excised, rightly so, about this ongoing scenario. The US Copyright Office this year conducted another study into the issue with some very strong statements from creators and submissions by writer organisations in support of the US finally recognising moral rights. However the RIAA in its wisdom decided to continue to reject this position.
Thus writers from across the US, Canada, the UK and Europe – organisations representing many tens of thousands of songwriters and composers of all genres – have come together in an unprecedented alliance to explain to the RIAA why this is wrong and damaging to the very people whose works the music industry is built on.
An Open Letter
Mr. Cary Sherman
Mr. Mitch Glazier
Dear Messrs. Sherman and Glazier,
It was with great disappointment that we read the recent RIAA comments to the Copyright Office in connection with moral rights; in particular, with regard to the right of attribution. The RIAA’s argument prioritizes the inconvenience of dealing with accurate metadata over the principle of the protection of the rights of the people upon whose work the music business is built. In our view, and the view of many in the creator community, this is not only irresponsible, it represents a betrayal of the ‘greater common purpose’ to which so many of us are committed—a purpose with which the RIAA claims to agree.
While music creators have greatly appreciated the RIAA’s leadership on, for example, the Music Community submission on Section 512, it’s crucial to note that such a leadership requires buy-in from the community one purports to lead. In this case, not only do you not have buy-in, the RIAA comments have inspired very active opposition, including that from UK and European music creators whose work is consumed widely across the USA but whose moral rights are not recognized, in part, due to your position. The Berne Convention, revised in 1928 to include moral rights, has 172 countries around the world signed up to it; it is only the US that refuses to assert them.
To make our position clear, we urge you to read the comments filed by Maria Schneider in this matter, which we believe capture the general views of the performer and songwriter community. Maria has outlined how enforceable rights of attribution (in the form of statutorily protected metadata) can be useful, if not indispensable, tools in achieving the kind of accountability from the internet that, in other submissions, the RIAA seeks to establish. [See Maria’s comments here.]
More fundamentally, RIAA’s comments are taken by many in the music creator community as a betrayal of our joint commitment to expand opportunities for creators. Unfortunately, this divergence of views gives our common adversaries an opportunity to divide our community.
We certainly are aware that the RIAA and its members have historically not embraced the idea of moral rights, and have tended to view it as a litigation risk. But the basic metadata rights we’re talking about here are already protected by Section 1202. We are not living in ordinary times, and we’re sure RIAA is well aware of the sensitivities regarding transparency and accountability. Without accurate metadata, contributors to a work risk not getting paid. That’s a moral dilemma intrinsically linked to the issue of moral rights — and on this issue the RIAA has now aligned itself with those who seek to enfeeble IP rights.
Even anti-copyright groups like Creative Commons understand the importance of attribution. If the RIAA is seen as less artist-friendly than Creative Commons, the copyleft and all who seek to undervalue our work will benefit. What’s more, this could make the job of aligning creators with the RIAA around our combined interests infinitely more difficult.
The RIAA comments raise fears about technical issues concerning implementation of the metadata. However, we believe this misses the point. No one is asking to add new requirements here. The current ID3v2 metadata tag is clearly a ‘standard technical measure’, and includes 80 separate ‘fields’ for including all sorts of metadata, including performers, lyricists, studio engineers etc. This capability is baked in to every MP3 and AAC. The RIAA should fully support and encourage all of us in the music community to harness and protect that metadata.
Instead, the RIAA frantically lays out a litany of hurdles they claim will prevent digital platforms from giving credit to the many people that contribute to a creative work. We believe there’s no doubt music platforms will come up with innovative and effective ways to give credit. Certainly there’s no need to set expectations at rock bottom as the RIAA did in their comments.
We have no interest in imposing new requirements that are unreasonable, or that require parties to include information that they themselves do not possess. But we do expect that the metadata capabilities that the industry and Section 1202 have given us will be protected, today and into the future.
Accurate metadata is essential to the healthy digital future of music creators, it is also critical to the healthy digital future of each and every Citizen Creator. The potential to report 100% accurate usage is the greatest promise cyberspace makes to Creators. Yet, in your Moral Rights submission, the RIAA seems to approach attribution and the accuracy that metadata provides as if it were a threat.
With key efforts like the Open Music Initiative, the future value of metadata to musicians and songwriters will be absolutely critical. And if, in the process of protecting those rights, we also happen to implicate certain moral rights, so be it.
The RIAA comments go in the exact opposite direction on this crucial issue, failing to take into account the potential value of legislated accreditation via metadata and providing ethical and political cover for Google and others to treat the internet as some kind of accountability-free zone. That, of course, has much broader implications than just with regard to the issue of moral rights.
We urge you and your members to think carefully about how to move forward from here in ways that truly reflect the interests of those you claim to protect. There are corporate players here, whose unfettered commercial self-interest masquerades as ideology and who capitalize upon our perceived divisions.
While the comment period may have technically closed, there is no restriction on the RIAA revising its views, endorsing the comments filed by Ms. Schneider, and affirming the following: a) the importance of metadata to musicians and creators; b) its strategic value to rights-holders in the future of payment/accountability technologies; c) the relevance and authority of Section 1202 in protecting those rights; and d) the short-term and long-term damage and chaos that is created by encouraging music distributors such as YouTube to disrespect and strip that metadata from our valuable creative works. In fact, we hope the RIAA will join us in encouraging the Copyright Office to use its authority under Section 1202(c)(8) to expressly include all of the metadata contained in a standard ID3v2 tag as falling within the definition of CMI.
We ask that the RIAA work with the creator community to address the specific issues of implementation. More important, we strongly urge the RIAA to present a united front in our common cause to protect the rights of music creators and those who present their work.
British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA)
European Composer & Songwriter Alliance (ECSA)
Music Creators North America (MCNA)
Council of Music Creators (CMC)
Screen Composers Guild of Canada (SCGC)
Societe Professionnelle des Autuers et des Composituers du Quebec (SPACQ)
Society of Composers and Lyricists (SCL)
Songwriters Association of Canada (SAC)
Songwriters Guild of America (SGA)
Songwriters of North America (SONA)
On June 12th, BASCA joined UNESCO, CISAC and a host of creators and copyright experts in Paris for a conference exploring the transfer of value and the challenges it brings to creative industries.
The key issues being discussed included the challenges facing culture and creative industries in the digital environment; the need for harmonized and effective legislation; and how can artistic freedom be protected in the digital environment. Jean-Michel Jarre, CISAC President, also took part in a keynote debate on ‘fairly remunerating creators in the digital environment’, highlighting the need for urgent changes to the framework protecting creators in the digital market, and supporting the copyright proposal put forward by the European Commission in September 2016.
Jarre said: “for the first time in two decades, the music industry is growing again. This is good news. Yet creators are still not seeing a fair return for their work and the main reason for that is the problem known as the transfer of value”.
Photo ©: Aurélien Mahot
BASCA Chairman, Crispin Hunt, who spoke at the conference, defined the effects of the ‘transfer of value’ as the creator no longer being the primary beneﬁciary of their work, noting that “the value of works has been transferred to the tech companies and platforms who have built vast global businesses on the back of the work of creators without having to ask permission from, or fairly remunerate those creators”. He also explained that this issue is “simply the direct result of a political decision to favour the growth of the online economy and of legislative ambiguity in the current law which fails to reﬂect today’s market”.
Closing his speech, Hunt stated:
“Over the last 15 years digital technologies have fundamentally transformed the music industry. It has created unbelievable opportunities that should yield unbelievable fruits – so why isn’t this the golden age of music, why has the once beautiful promise of an internet of freedom and fairness not become a reality? And why are creators around the world fearful of the future of our art and our creativity?… If we are to preserve that diversity alongside the dignity of the globes cultural future, we must take measures to re-balance the rights of creators with the power of those that exploit their creativity”
Online platforms that host music creators works and actively monetise them currently fall under a legal loophole. That’s why they get away with not paying a fair share of revenues.
At a major creators’ event in Brussels on 30 May, a new letter was launched called Meet the Authors and will now become a new creators’ campaign.
It is time to make your voice heard in Brussels so that the new Copyright legislation protects your interests, and not just that of internet giants.
BASCA Chair Crispin Hunt says – “This the most important musical petition for Creators in years. The EU is being bombarded with copyleft petitions to try to scupper the solutions for copyright proposed by the EU. The deadline for change is July. Please sign this and please send it to everyone you know who cares, we need to counter the copyleft or we will lose this important battle. If we all get 10 people to sign it and they all get 10 more we have a chance. The MEP’s are hugely affected by initiatives such as this and unless we react to the copyleft’ efforts, they will think we don’t care. When we do“.
Sign the petition
Three collection societies, PRS For Music, ASCAP and SACEM announced last week (7 April) they are working together to prototype a new shared system of managing music copyright information using blockchain technology.
Blockchain technology, most commonly associated with digital currency Bitcoin, has become well-known for its use in payments systems for its ability to manage records without centralised governance.
The project aims to create a new system for managing the links between music recordings International Standard Recording Codes (ISRCs) and music work International Standard Work Codes (ISWCs) which in turn will resolve conflicts between linking identifiers for the same work across multiple rightsholders.
“BASCA is delighted to hear that PRS For Music is spearheading this initiative”. CEO -Vick Bain commented “Bad data is the scourge of the music industry and this solution to a long intractable problem appears both elegant and robust..the ability to be credited for the music you have written is something creators have long-campaigned for, it is in fact a “moral right”. The importance of enabling ISWCs to be transparently linked to ISRCs cannot be underestimated. It will allow more accurate identification in turn allowing greater accuracy and more money in the pockets of hundreds of thousands of songwriters and composers.’
Here you can watch Imogen Heap explain more about Blockchain technology and its impact on the music industry.
For more videos please visit the members’ area
On 28 Feb, Westminster hall held a Houses of Parliament debate on the importance of intellectual property to the British economy, where MPs discussed a wide-range of copyright issues.
Five music industry groups representing music creatives and their managers, BASCA, the FAC, the MMF, the MPG and the MU, put out a joint statement welcoming the Government’s intervention after 18 months of attempting to reach a voluntary code of conduct on transparency between artists, songwriters and producers failed, “due to intransigence on the part of the major music corporations.”
“According to data from UK Music, it is this country’s creative talent that underpins our global success story in music. The direct economic contribution of those who compose, perform and produce music represents over 50% of our entire industry’s GVA – more than £2.1 billion. Without these individuals there would be no music business.”
“These facts are worth bearing in mind in the continued debates around streaming services, and the fight by creators to see greater transparency in how their music is licensed and how the resulting revenues are distributed.”
Their voice was acknowledged in the parliament debate. Northern Irish MP Ian Paisley raised an imperative need for a more transparent music industry. In light of Brexit, he urged the government “to make the United Kingdom the gold standard for protection of performers’ IP”, and “to grab this generational opportunity to make the UK the best and the safest place for IP to be placed, contracted and protected.”
The recent anti-piracy agreement reached between search engines and creative industries was also highly praised and the role played by the intellectual Property Office (IPO) was welcomed. Nigel Adams MP, who had instigated this IP discussion, suggested a similar role could potentially benefit and facilitate negotiation between artists, songwriters, producers, and major music corporations on the matters of transparency.
This subject was also mentioned in previous parliament debate on Digital Economy Bill, when a transparency amendment was proposed by Liberal Democrat lord Tim Clement-Jones in the House of Lords debate, however didn’t make its way to the final stage.
On EU’s level, the latest Copyright directive made an attempt to address this issue in article 14, where a “transparency obligation” was invented, granting authors and performers the right to receive on a regular basis, timely, adequate and sufficient information on the exploitation of their works. Although the exact terms and practical enforcement of this article was heavily questioned, it is unarguably a positive attempt from the government’s end.
One of BASCA’s key campaigns, “the Day the Music Dies”, also targets the lack of transparency in music industry, urging more transparency around digital deals, to achieve a fairer share of digital royalty income and advertising revenues linked to our members’ works
Paul McCartney – winner of the Ivor Novello award for Outstanding Services to British Music in 1989
Under American copyright law, authors have a statutory right to terminate copyright-related contracts. But this termination right is an anomaly very specific to US copyright law and there are no equivalent ‘recapturing’ rights in the EU or the UK.
BASCA reported back in 2015 how Bruce Woolley, co-writer of Buggles’ hit Video Killed The Radio Star, with the help of music copyright attorney Lisa Alter, was able to ‘recapture’ the rights to his US catalogue.
Duran Duran had sought to reclaim the copyright to some of their hits using this very process but in December last year a high court judge ruled that contracts made under English law can prevent them from doing so and ruled in favour of their publishers Gloucester Place Music, owned by Sony/ATV.
Now Sony/ATV are going back to the courts as BASCA Fellow Sir Paul McCartney is also attempting to secure the reversion of his U.S. Beatles publishing copyrights next year and claims that the publishing company has so far failed to agree to transfer these copyrights to the songwriter when the legal rights expire, despite repeated requests dating back to 2008.
Yesterday (18/01/17) McCartney filed a lawsuit in a New York federal court against Sony/ATV to confirm his ownership in his U.S. reversionary copyrights granted to him by U.S. copyright law in the songs he wrote with fellow Beatle, John Lennon.
Under American copyright law, authors have a statutory right to terminate copyright-related contracts after 35 years. This termination right is an anomaly very specific to US copyright law.
There is a five-year window within which they can terminate their contracts for perpetual or ‘life of copyright’ grants. These provisions were originally prompted by an acknowledgment by the US Congress that authors (including songwriters) frequently enter into inequitable, long-binding deals.
US artists such as Billy Joel and Blondie have been handed their copyrights back in the US and BASCA reported last year that Bruce Woolley who co-wrote Video Killed The Radio Star with Trevor Horn, successfully navigated through this legal maze.
Double Ivor Novello award winners, Duran Duran had sought to reclaim the copyright to some of their hits using this very process but yesterday a high court judge ruled that contracts made under English law can prevent them from doing so and ruled in favour of their publishers Gloucester Place Music, owned by US business Sony/ATV.
As reported in The Telegraph, singer Simon Le Bon and his fellow group members are now seeking to challenge the decision in bid to help other UK artists. BASCA CEO, Vick Bain is quoted saying “We are very disappointed to hear of the outcome of this ruling. Justice Arnold has stated his decision was “not without hesitation” so we hope this ruling is challenged and that Duran Duran will consider an appeal.
“The law in the US is very clear; songwriters have an opportunity to claim back their copyrights after 35 years and a number of British songwriters with US deals have been able to do so successfully over the past few years. They have then been able to re-negotiate fairer terms for their catalogues than were offered to them in the late 1970s and early 80s at the start of their careers. It seems clear to us that US laws should cover all copyrights in that territory no matter the nationality of the writers.”
BASCA Chair, Crispin Hunts adds “”Copyright’s intended purpose is to protect and incentivise creators to create great work. In this case ,for Duran Duran, it has clearly succeeded in doing neither. In the digital age ,where copyright is widely misunderstood, this unhelpful judgment may serve to foment further confusion or at best illuminate where uk songwriters are disadvantaged by un -progressive contractual terms”.
View the ‘Termination of Transfers under US Copyright Law’ by Lisa Alter
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