A coalition of over 20 American organisations representing songwriters, artist managers, indie and major labels, music publishers and collecting societies have taken the unprecedented step to write a letter to US policy-makers asking the US government to support the clause in the proposed European Union Copyright Directive that deals with the value gap.
The letter, sent on November 1 to Anthony L. Gardner, the United States Ambassador to the European Union, was also copied to Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Danny Marti, United States Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, and many other officials.
In the letter, the signatories write “to ask that our government support the interests of its creative music community by supporting Article 13 of the Copyright Directive recently proposed by the European Commission, which was a welcome and enormously important development for American music and the entire American creative economy.”
The reason for the support of such legislation is that it will “promote and protect American creation and works.” They add, “That is why we enthusiastically support passage of Article 13 of the recent proposed EC Copyright Directive, which will benefit American creators by directly addressing what has been called the 'Value Gap'.” This gap, they explain, is “largely due to a narrow group of businesses that exploit analog-era laws intended for passive online conduits in order to obtain below-market licenses never intended for active music distributors like them.”
The signatories believe that US legislation from 1998, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, “benefits platforms like YouTube and disadvantages companies that do not base their business on users uploading the content they distribute. This unfair competitive advantage was unintended, and harms American creators.”
For them, Article 13 of the proposed EC Copyright Directive recognises “the importance of correcting this disparity, essentially requiring those that act as music distribution services to negotiate free-market licenses or take meaningful action to prevent unlicensed works from appearing on their services.” If adopted, Article 13 will place all services “on a level playing field that protects creators and the digital marketplace itself.”
They conclude: “We hope and expect the American government will protect its vibrant music industry and all American creators by supporting Article 13 of the proposed EC Copyright Directive.”
Sources in Washington, DC say that the letter was a real group effort from all signatories who are keen to see the US government address the “value gap” – or rather the “value grab” as described by Cary Sherman, Chairman/CEO of the RIAA – and that the EU Directive was too good an occasion to let pass in order to flag the issue to the US government. “It’s a little more about making sure that if the US government engages at all on the EU copyright directive stuff, that it comes down on the right side,” said a source.
The concern of the creative community is that Google and other tech companies will try to knock Article 13 out from the EU Directive and try to bring to a halt any similar attempt in the US. The letter is therefore as much a support to Article 13 as it is a pre-emptive strike from the creative community to test the resolve of the US government.
The letter was signed by the following organisations: American Association of Independent Music, American Federation of Musicians, American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Americana Music Association, Azoff MSG Entertainment, Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), Christian Music Trade Association, Church Music Publishers Association, Global Music Rights, Gospel Music Association, The Living Legends Foundation, Inc., Music Managers Forum – United States, Music Publishers Association, Nashville Songwriters Association International, National Music Publishers’ Association, The Recording Academy, Recording Industry Association of America, Rhythm & Blues Foundation, Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, SESAC Holdings, Inc., Songwriters Guild of America and SoundExchange.