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Paul McCartney joins music industry in last big push ahead of copyright vote

By | Published on Wednesday 4 July 2018

Paul McCartney

The music industry is in the midst of a final big push to try and win the backing of the European Parliament for the safe harbour reform that is included in the draft new European Copyright Directive. Hell, even Paul McCartney’s joining in!

That safe harbour reform has been a long time coming, of course, but some in the music community fear that a late-in-the-day panic campaign being orchestrated by the tech sector could scupper plans to increase the liabilities of user-upload sites.

Lobbyists for the music business have been working hard to secure safe harbour reform for years now, putting it at the top of their priority list when the European Commission announced a new copyright review.

The music industry argues that websites like YouTube exploit protections intended for internet service providers and server hosting companies in order to secure preferential rates when negotiating licensing deals with copyright owners. Which means YouTube et al pay much lower royalties to music owners and creators than their competitors like Spotify and Apple, resulting in the much talked about ‘value gap’.

Article thirteen of the copyright directive seeks to increase the liabilities of user-upload sites. Critics argue that the move will alter the social media experience, prevent the sharing of memes and basically “break the internet”. The music industry counters that those critics, led by the tech lobby, are simply misrepresenting the proposed new laws in a bid to scare MEPs into voting against them.

A reworked version of article thirteen was passed by the European Parliament’s JURI committee last month. The reworking basically involved taking an already pretty waffley article and ramping up the waffle to the max. Though the current draft has been welcomed by the music industry and highly criticised by the tech lobby, which suggests that most people reckon the new rules will be of some use to copyright owners if passed.

The European Parliament at large will vote on the proposals tomorrow, hence the flurry of statements, blog posts and open letters from artists, rights owners, music industry trade groups and collecting societies. Together those statements, blog posts and open letters are seeking support from MEPs for article thirteen, while trying to counter the tech sector arguments that have been filling techy sites, social feeds and MEP inboxes for the last few weeks.

What kind of open letters, you shriek? Well, For starters, there’s this letter published in The Guardian on Monday signed by the bosses of BPI, AIM, BASCA, PRS and UK Music.

What kind of blog posts, you demand? Well, there’s this one from pan-European indie label trade group IMPALA which summarises its position on the debate.

What kind of statements, you tetchily murmur through clenched teeth? Well, loads of statements. Here’s a few for you to enjoy reading out loud…

Geoff Taylor, CEO of UK record label trade body BPI: “Billions of views of music videos are clocked up each year on services like YouTube, but video still contributes only 3.2% of the income generated by UK recorded music. This is because tech giants hide behind ‘safe harbours’ from liability to avoid paying fair royalties to the artists concerned. This antiquated EU rule has undermined creators’ incomes and investment in new talent, distorting the market for digital services by creating a ‘value gap’ with licensed services that pay fairly”.

“MEPs vote on Thursday to address this problem, and the tech-lobby has been using its deep pockets to disingenuously claim the copyright directive will ‘break the internet’. These baseless scare tactics deserve to fail. The status quo is holding back both creativity and innovation. MEPs should ensure music and technology flourish together, through freely-negotiated licence deals. For the sake of the next Dua Lipa or Stormzy and the next Spotify, let’s hope they pass this measure”.

Robert Ashcroft, CEO of UK song rights collecting society PRS For Music: “After three years of debate, one of the most controversial pieces of legislation ever to come before the European Parliament is about to go to the vote. This is about copyright and specifically about the rights of creators versus those of the internet giants; it is about the way the internet functions as a fair and efficient marketplace. It is a debate we must win if we want to secure our creative community into the next decade”.

David El Sayegh, Secretary General of French collecting society SACEM: “Online content sharing platforms have become an integral part of the musical ecosystem, acting as the main access point to enjoy and share music. However, these platforms currently benefit from the uploading and sharing of creative works but do not remunerate artists for the value of their work. As a matter of fact, these platforms are acting as ‘free riders’. The value gap this generates is a real threat to the longer term viability of the creative industries worldwide”.

“Since creators are integral to the business model of these platforms, it is only fair that the works of creators should be properly recognised. Article thirteen will ensure creators are fairly remunerated for the use of their work, and will make online content sharing platforms comply with the appropriate copyright rules. The vote this Thursday is crucial for musicians and music lovers across the world. SACEM strongly urges MEPs to vote in favour of the mandate of the copyright directive on Thursday, to ensure a viable and sustainable future for the music industry for generations to come”.

Dr Harald Heker, CEO of German collecting society GEMA: “The European Parliament cannot allow itself to be hijacked by pirates. Since the adoption in front of the European Parliament’s legal affairs committee [last month], critics have been running a massive disinformation campaign”.

“A differentiation appears no longer possible. Deliberate misleading misstatements are being purposely spread in order to cause uncertainty amongst MEPs and to influence the debate negatively in parliament. GEMA fiercely criticises the undue blurring of the debate with incorrect terms such as ‘upload filters’ and ‘censorship machines’. A vote against the legal affairs committee’s report would be a slap in the face of all culture creators and artists”.

So there you go, some statements. That was fun, wasn’t it? “But fuck you CMU! You said I was gonna hear from Paul McCartney. You promised me Paul McCartney. Where the fuck is Paul McCartney?”

Woah, there, reader, how about a bit patience, yeah? I mean, we’ve been talking about bloody safe harbour reform for what seems like about 4000 years now, you can wait a little bit longer for Paul McCartney’s intervention, can’t you? No? OK, click here to read Paul McCartney’s intervention. Enjoy it why don’t you?

The big vote’s tomorrow, remember. And if it all goes through, then we get to march on to – yeah, that’s right – the next big vote. Maybe next time John Lennon will chip in from beyond the grave.

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