Songwriters rally against ‘free-riding’ tech giants

Music creators from across Europe are calling on MEPs to protect Europe’s status as a global hub for culture

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Creators from across the EU including songwriters, audio-visual authors, and visual artists, are joining together to make their voices heard and to ensure that the EU allows them to live from their work. More than 32,000 of them have signed a petition that follows the previous one signed by worldwide figures such as David Guetta, Ennio Morricone, Jean-Michel Jarre, Pedro Almodóvar, Agnieszka Holland, Klaus Meine, Mikis Theodorakis and many others. 

A group of signatories, mainly young and rising European talent, as well as prominent names,[1] have met with Members of the European Parliament (MEP) to defend the future of their artistic career in Europe, to ensure that Europe remains the hub for cultural heritage for the entire world, and to ask MEPs to vote positively at a Plenary vote in Strasbourg next week (5 July). They expressed their particular concern on the aggressive and illusionary campaign undertaken by tech giants under the pretext of freedom of expression, a value that is hugely important to creators, but which is being dishonestly distorted by such companies and by the Pirate Party for their own commercial interest.

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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.

Robert Ashcroft, Chief Executive, PRS for Music
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We are travelling to Brussels to speak to MEPs about the need to create a fairer digital market for music. It is not about preventing people from accessing and using works but making sure that the market is sustainable. Music has been so devalued, even since we started out that is difficult to see how it can be sustainable; there will come a point where it simply isn't possible for people to keep making music. It isn't as though there isn't money being made, the tech giants are making vast revenues – it is unacceptable that they continue to profit from the work of artists without paying a fair price. As technology progresses so must the laws that surround them. We need the EU policy makers to update the copyright framework so that it is fit for the digital age and provides adequate safeguards to creators.

Felix Bushe, frontman of the band Gengahr
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I do worry about the sustainability of the professional music industry, as a songwriter. If copyright becomes free for the music that I write, and I don’t get paid in any sense for the music being used either on the radio or the platforms online, then logically, I won’t be able to sustain myself as professional. I hope that the fight for copyright for songwriters improves and that songwriters are just able to sustain the work that they love. If the trend continues and the margins across the industry shrink, especially for songwriters, I just don’t see there being as many. It just won’t be as attractive a profession to go into, not because of the money but because you can’t sustain yourself without some basic payment for the job you’re doing.

Jimbo Barry, producer and songwriter, known for co-writing hits for The Script

The European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee adopted a critical report on Copyright in the Digital Single Market on Wednesday 20 June, clarifying and confirming the copyright liability of services such as YouTube and Facebook. However, the same companies are orchestrating a huge campaign spearheaded by the Pirate Party and carried out by organisations that are directly or indirectly funded by them to challenge this law at the Plenary vote in Strasbourg next week (5 July).

The aforementioned services are refusing to pay creators fairly for the content they make available on their platforms, siphoning the value of creation away for their own business interests (aka the Transfer of Value/Value Gap). Moreover, these services are currently the main route of access to creative works globally and are distorting the entire online market vis-à-vis legitimate online businesses. The text approved in the Committee last week would clarify that those platforms are liable for copyright and must remunerate authors fairly and act as partners in this market, thus creating a level playing field for all services.

About PRS for Music

PRS for Music represents the rights of songwriters, composers and music publishers in the UK and around the world. As a membership organisation it works to ensure that creators are paid whenever their musical compositions and songs are streamed, downloaded, broadcast, performed and played in public. With over 100 representation agreements in place globally, PRS for Music's network represents over two million music creators worldwide. In 2017, 6.6 trillion performances of music were reported to PRS for Music with £717m collected on behalf of its members, making it one of the world’s leading music collective management organisations.

PRS for Music is also part of the joint venture company, PPL PRS Ltd, which issues TheMusicLicence, giving businesses in the UK access to over 22.2 million musical works.