Welcome to the biggest day for music copyright since the invention of the gramophone.
Today, members of the European Parliament will vote on the recommendations of its JURI committee for a new EU Copyright Directive that could have far-reaching ramifications for everyone in the business of music.
Particular attention is being focused on the Directive’s Article 13, which would make online platforms such as YouTube responsible for any copyright infringement on their networks. If passed, it could require the streaming platform to pay more money in licence fees for user-generated content, or take responsibility for removing unlicensed material.
In frantic last-minute lobbying, almost every head of a music trade body has spoken out in favour of passing the legislation, while the IFPI even persuaded Paul McCartney to use the phrase ‘value gap’ as part of its effort to win hearts and minds. On the other side, the music biz says technology companies have been spending millions on lobbying in an attempt to preserve their ‘safe harbour’ protections. Although YouTube’s global head of music Lyor Cohen also weighed in by promising rights-holders they will now make more money from his platform.
Now, though, the time for talking is over. Today’s vote will either represent victory after years of relentless music industry campaigning – or see the biz right back to square one (although at least YouTube has acquiesced to many industry demands of late, including the launch of a shiny new subscription service).
Ahead of the historic vote, Music Week sat down with BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor to talk about the implications for the biz, win or lose. Here’s his final rallying call…
How do you feel about today’s vote?
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for the European Parliament to ensure that creativity, including music but also other forms of content, flourishes alongside technology. The best of the market is when we see licensed services bringing value and bringing a great consumer experience to the market. But the growth of content has been held back by the fact that there have been these safe harbours, which have allowed certain services to operate either without a licence or, frankly, by paying very little value for the content that they exploit. That, clearly, is an outdated position. This is an opportunity for European parliamentarians to update the framework, create a level playing field, ensure that, when content is used, there’s value attributed to it, which goes back to the creators who then have an incentive to invest in creating more great content. It’s a virtuous circle. The opportunity to create that virtuous circle and ensure that all parts of music consumption generate value for creators is one they should take.”
Are you optimistic that they will vote for the new Copyright Directive?
“What we’re seeing is an aggressive lobby by the tech giants in the US against the proposal, trying to scare people with suggestions that this vote is going to break the internet or it’s going to ban memes. This is just scaremongering, without any foundation in fact. That’s really regrettable and so we hope that the European Parliamentarians will see through that. We’ve seen this kind of scare tactics before whenever there’s been an attempt to improve and protect creators’ rights and it’s a real shame. The opportunity is for creativity and technology to flourish in partnership and, if the European Parliament votes for a mandate for the copyright directive to be finalised, then that allows us to have a really healthy ecosystem for both technology and creativity to work together.”
Where will the music industry be if MEPs don’t vote for it?
“If the MEPs don’t vote for this, it’s not the end of the process. That will simply mean that there will be a plenary vote in the European Parliament rather than a mandate being given to the head of the committee to negotiate the final text. So, it wouldn’t be the end of the road. But the other important thing to say is that this draft directive clarifies the existing law as we believe it to be: that services that are exploiting content on this kind of scale need to have a licence. That clarification in the Copyright Directive would be enormously helpful, so we’re really hoping that MEPs see some sense in that and disregard the scare tactics of the tech lobby who are trying to frighten them but there’ll be adverse consequences from this vote. Whereas, in fact, there can be very positive consequences, not just for creators but also for technology.”
* For updates on the vote, stay tuned to musicweek.com and our social media channels.