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Songwriter group urges MEPs to back Copyright Directive – including its “transparency triangle”

By | Published on Monday 10 September 2018

European Commission

As the European Parliament gets ready to discuss the draft new copyright directive this week, global songwriters group the International Council For Creators Of Music last week sent a letter to MEPs urging them to support the copyright reforms. Though it didn’t just talk about the controversial safe harbour reforming article thirteen which the wider music industry has been shouting about loudest. It also looked at the other elements of the directive that will impact on music creators, and especially artists and songwriters.

That includes articles fourteen through sixteen, what the Council’s top man Eddie Schwartz calls the “transparency triangle”. These elements of the directive have been “strengthened” during the committee stage of the law-making process, he added, and they are “supported by all creators in all sectors”.

Whereas article thirteen seeks to increase the liabilities of user-upload platforms to the wider music industry’s advantage, articles fourteen, fifteen and sixteen are more about increasing the rights of artists and songwriters in terms of their working relationships with corporate partners within the music business, chiefly labels and publishers.

Article fourteen seeks to force more transparency where corporate entities control the copyright in creative works, while article fifteen proposes a ‘contract adjustment mechanism’ for when creators believe new circumstances make old contracts with entertainment companies unfair. Article sixteen, which describes a dispute resolution procedure in relation to articles fourteen and fifteen, has been particularly beefed up in the committee process, providing creators with extra rights when their works aren’t being exploited by corporate copyright owners.

Schwartz writes of article fourteen: “This has the potential to be of inestimable benefit to the creator community. Profit-driven enterprises routinely place the interest of their shareholders above those of creators who actually provide the wealth. We are calculatedly viewed, in accounting terms, as merely a cost of operation”.

He goes on: “What article fourteen could give us represents the kind of accounting that should in any event be standard as a matter of good practice within any company with third party accounting obligations. It would also promote confidence and enable young creators to make better informed decisions about their future commercial partners”.

As for article fifteen, he says this “embraces concepts that protect authors and performers from unfair enrichment, giving us an opportunity to challenge the abuses that routinely arise from unequal bargaining positions”.

He goes on: “Influenced by the so-called ‘best-seller rule’ already present in Germany’s copyright statute, such a provision has already been seen to work to good effect for creators. We welcome the fact that Europe is taking a step – we hope – that expressly addresses the imbalance inherent in discussions between creators and corporations across the negotiating table”.

And on article sixteen and its dispute resolution, he muses: “Who can object to the creation of a system of affordable access to justice to a constituency rarely able to meet the usually high costs of seeking justice and redress?”

Urging MEPs to back all of these measures in the copyright directive – from the much hyped article thirteen through to the less discussed “transparency triangle” – Schwartz concludes: “On behalf of music creators worldwide, I thank you for taking the time to consider our perspective and I respectfully ask you to support the Copyright Directive and its essential provisions for authors. We hope that the interests of all creators may be considered in the face of pressures to which you have been, and may be again, subjected by those opposed to good sense and fairness in the exploitation of our work”.

You can read Schwartz’s full letter here.