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Music industry urges new EU presidency to support safe harbour reform

By | Published on Thursday 1 February 2018

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A consortium of trade bodies representing the music, movie, TV, book and football industries has written to the Prime Minister of Bulgaria – so that’ll be Boyko Borissov – to bring him up to speed on the everyone’s favourite value gap campaign. Bulgaria has recently taken on the presidency of the European Union so will be leading the EU Council as the safe harbour reforming copyright directive goes through its final stages.

The music industry, which has generally been most proactive in pushing for safe harbour reform, is very well represented in the consortium of trade bodies, which includes a sufficient number of industry organisations that a whole extra page is required in the letter to accommodate all their logos. Among the music groups signed up are CIAM, CISAC, ECSA, GESAC, IAO, ICMP, IFPI, IMPALA and IMPF. There’s a special prize for whoever knows what all those acronyms stand for.

The music industry – and other copyright owning sectors – all reckon that user-upload websites like (and principally) YouTube are exploiting the so called safe harbour in EU law in order to operate a streaming service that pays much lower royalties to rights owners. The hope is that the new copyright directive will increase the liabilities of big user-upload platforms, strengthening the negotiating hand of copyright owners looking to do licensing deals with such companies.

Article thirteen of the draft copyright directive has a good go at reforming the European copyright safe harbour, though opinion is divided as to quite how useful the initial draft would be for rights owners. Meanwhile lobbying has continued in Brussels to amend said article, with the music industry wanting it beefed up, and the tech sector pushing for an even more waffley approach so to render the reform useless.

With that game still in full swing, the music and other copyright industries want Borissov on side as a final draft of the directive is negotiated. Hence this week’s letter, which declared that the so called value gap caused by the safe harbour is “a major problem which is holding back our sector and jeopardising future sustainability”.

Referencing the initial draft of the copyright directive, the letter continued: “As an alliance we are convinced that the European Commission’s proposal is a step in the right direction to provide for a balanced and effective solution that should clarify that … [user-upload sites] who play an ‘active role’ (for instance by promotion or optimisation of content) cannot benefit from ‘safe harbours'”.

The letter adds: “It is important to recall that the underlying policy objective of this legislation is to address the current unfairness in the online market due to the misapplication of copyright liability rules by [user-upload services]. We would therefore like to stress that the focus should remain on finding effective solutions to tackle this issue”.

Concluding, the alliance of trade groups said it looked forward “to working with your Presidency to achieve an effective solution to the value gap problem for the benefit of Europe”. Yeah, let’s make Europe great again.

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