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French government launches code promoting “clarity and fairness” in digital music

By | Published on Wednesday 30 September 2015


France’s Minister Of Culture And Communication Fleur Pellerin yesterday formally announced an Agreement For A Fair Development Of Online Music, a snappily titled government-led initiative that puts pressure on record companies to be more transparent with artists over their digital deals, and to play fair in sharing any kickbacks like advances and equity stakes.

The French government, for its part, pledges to work to ensure a strong copyright framework domestically, in Europe and worldwide, while “seeking clarification to rules applicable to online content distribution platforms”, aka reviewing safe harbours.

The agreement has been put together by Marc Schwartz, who was asked by the French government to facilitate talks between corporate rights owners, performers and digital platforms back in May.

According to the International Artist Organisation, which backs the initiative, “the new code sees the major labels and the digital platforms agreeing to play fair with artists in areas that have up until now been highly contentious, such as the lack of clarity over the sharing of multi-million dollar advances, as well as the equity stakes taken by the majors from the platforms”.

Meanwhile, speaking for those pesky majors, the International Federation Of The Phonographic Industry said that the voluntary agreement would see the wider music community “work together to help foster a sustainable music industry, diversity and innovation, clarity on revenue distribution and a fair value for music recordings”.

Quite how different parties will now interpret the commitments to “clarity” and “fairness” at the heart of this new code remains to be seen, though a committee chaired by Pellerin will oversee the implementation of the agreement and ensure discussions continue for the foreseeable future, as the digital music sector further evolves.

In the meantime, both the labels and the artists are positive about the development. IFPI boss Frances Moore says: “The recording industry has succeeded in the digital world by embracing change, licensing music wherever it can and adapting its business to new models. Today’s announcement in France is the latest step along that path and is a positive initiative, which we welcome”.

She went on: “Record companies in France have agreed to work with performers’ groups and digital services on important objectives: to enhance the value of music for all rights holders, further develop a successful and sustainable music landscape, and bring greater clarity and understanding on the distribution of revenues to different parties. They will also work to secure and improve the already diverse range of digital offerings among the hundreds of legal online services that are available to consumers”.

Meanwhile IAO President Paul Pacifico said: “The music industry must pull together and work as one to get real value from the legal digital opportunities in front of us. This code represents a genuine opportunity for the industry to move forward together and agree not to repeat the sins of the past where artists have not benefitted equitably from the massive growth in the digital market”.