Radiohead join attack on new EU copyright rules
By Benjamin Fox
Plans to re-write EU rules on music copyright have received a cool reception by artists and collecting societies, with groups criticising the narrow focus of the proposal and insisting that it will leave most existing copyright practices untouched.
Pink Floyd and Radiohead were among the biggest music names to criticise the European Commission's proposal, co-signing a letter released on Thursday (12 July) by artists' lobby group Younison.
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They accused the EU executive of choosing to "defend the interests of a minority of managers and stakeholders", adding that the proposal would merely "encourage the management of collecting societies to keep the fruits of our creativity."
Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier announced the reforms to collective copyright on Wednesday claiming that the bill would improve the transparency and governance of collecting societies, alongside beefing up artists' control over the management of their rights.
Among its provisions, the directive would give artists the right to leave a collecting society with six months warning. Meanwhile, societies would be required to pay out royalties within a year, but would be granted exclusive powers to manage rights if the rights-holder could not be found within five years.
It also contains new EU guidelines for multi-territory licensing of online music, a market currently dominated by Apple's iTunes platform, which is still the only significant portal offering online music across the EU's 27 member states.
The collective copyright sector in the EU is worth an estimated €4.6bn for nearly 100 management companies out of a global industry valued at €7.5bn. In an impact assessment attached to the proposal, Commission figures indicated that major collecting societies had owed €3.6 billion in unpaid royalties to artists.
Meanwhile, speaking to EUobserver, the Society of Audiovisual Authors, which represents screenwriters and directors, lambasted the draft as "extremely biased to the functioning of music societies without taking other sectors, like audiovisual, into account."
But the draft directive was welcomed by French centre-right MEP, Marielle Gallo, who was swiftly appointed as the European Parliament's rapporteur.
Gallo, who will now lead Parliament's negotiating team on the directive, has previously piloted reports on the status of unclaimed copyrights, known as 'orphan works' and chairs the Parliament's IP forum on intellectual property.
In a statement released by the Parliament's EPP group, Gallo described the Commission text as a "key proposal for the digital single market", adding that "the latest summer hit should be easily accessible all over Europe, just as an album by a Spanish artist should be available to a Spanish ex-pat living in Stockholm."
MEPs had become increasingly frustrated at the Commission has dragged its feet on the issue, having promised to come forward with a directive on collective rights for over a year.
The directive will now be discussed by government ministers and the European Parliament's Legal Affairs committee.
Despite the long delay in releasing the proposal, the Commission is understood to be seeking agreement on the bill by the end of 2012.