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Eddie Schwartz and Jean Michel Jarre ask IP lawmakers to stick up for the creators

By | Published on Monday 29 September 2014

Jean Michel Jarre

I’m pretty sure we all agreed to stop equating streams for downloads, let alone record sales, though that didn’t stop Canadian songwriter Eddie Schwartz pulling out the old cliché at the General Assembly of the World Intellectual Property Organisation in Geneva last week. Which is a shame because he and Jean Michel Jarre were raising decent concerns at the annual meeting of IP lawmakers about ensuring creator rights are remembered as frameworks are built governing copyright in the digital age.

Focusing less on piracy, and more on how songwriters and artists will earn a living for legitimate digital content businesses, Schwartz noted during one discussion: “Sales of one million records would at one time have paid me a modest middle class income and I would have received a platinum record. Looking at my digital royalty statements today, for one million streams I get $35. My middle class economic status has been reduced to a pizza”.

Meanwhile Jarre, speaking in his role as President of the global collecting society grouping CISAC, said: “We, as creators, are pro-technology. We embrace it and welcome the wider access to culture that digital devices and services afford the public, and the opportunity to reach wider audiences that technology affords creators. But we need business models that make sense to all parties”.

Meanwhile Schwartz went on: “For the first time in history we have global platforms that can distribute creative content from virtually anywhere in the world to anywhere in the world. Thanks to the internet, African, Latin and South American and Asian music creators have instantaneous and universal access to the same European and North American audiences and consumers that I as a Canadian songwriter have had access to over the course of my professional life. But ironically, of what value is this unprecedented access if the music is virtually worthless?”

He concluded: “If the revenues don’t flow back to creators, while the shareholders and CEOs of companies who deny the value of music enjoy literally billions in profits, surely something is terribly wrong”.

Supporting the input of Schwartz and Jarre, Gadi Oron, Director General of CISAC, said that ministers and political decision makers at the WIPO event “should use their power to ensure creators can continue to make a living from their work and that the digital market does not benefit only a few powerful online players”.

Exactly how lawmakers could or should ensure the flow of money made from licensed digital music services is fairly divided between web firms, corporate rights owners and individual creators is less than clear.

Though clarification on when and how the statutory royalty already paid in many countries to recording artists out of public performance income should apply to digital services, might be a start. While you still sense that the debate over how digital royalties are split between labels/featured artists and publishers/songwriters will, at some point, kick off once again, digital deals generally weighed very much in the favour of the former.