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IAO calls on European Commission to keep artists at the heart of its copyright review

By | Published on Monday 29 February 2016

European Commission

Over 50 artists from across Europe have signed a letter calling on the European Commission to ensure that the ongoing review of copyright law in the European Union keeps artists very much in mind.

Noting that the Commission itself has “put fair remuneration on the agenda for the copyright review”, the letter – organised by the International Artist Organisation, which brings together various artist groups like the UK’s Featured Artist Coalition – says “we are writing to ask your help in ensuring that this remains at the very heart of that review”.

As previously reported, the record industry and music publishers have put safe harbours at the top of their priority list for the European copyright review, in a bid stop the likes of YouTube exploiting legal protections originally designed for internet service providers and server hosting companies so to run ‘opt-out’ rather than ‘opt-in’ streaming services.

Artists don’t necessarily disagree with the labels and publishers on the safe harbours issue, though they have other concerns that they would also like addressed, such as the way digital revenue is shared between stakeholders in the music community, the lack of transparency in digital deals, and the specifics around how a ‘stream’ is defined by copyright law, which can have an impact on how artists are paid.

That latter point – which centres on clarifying how the ‘communication’ and ‘making available’ controls of copyright operate – is very much on the EC’s official copyright agenda; indeed more so than safe harbours.

The IAO letter, signed by the likes of Annie Lennox, Will Young, Sandie Shaw and Robbie Williams in the UK, as well as Axel Bauer in France, Luz Casal in Spain and Julia Neigel in Germany, begins: “Artists love technology. We are now, as always, at the cutting edge, pushing the boundaries. We wholeheartedly support the transition to a future-facing digital single market and the opportunity to reboot out ecosystem to be stronger and more vibrant”.

But, it adds, “the market as it stands only works for a handful of global corporations without proportionate value flowing through the system to the sea of creators who are, in fact, small business entrepreneurs. It is this work and these people, the foundation of an important sector of the economy, that now needs your attention”.

It continues: “We are not asking for market intervention. All we want is that the normal principles of a functioning market – transparency, duty of care, share of value and remuneration that is equitable – be applied to music. If adopted, this would enable all parts of the music sector to contract on fair terms and to benefit together from the success ahead”.

A much more organised than before artist-led movement does now seem to be getting more traction in European political circles than during past copyright reviews. Though with the labels and publishers shouting ever louder about safe harbours, the artists need to maintain that momentum to keep other issues on the agenda as well. Hence letters like this one.