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Closing the gaps, growing the pie – independent music companies’ vision on EU’s copyright plans

Brussels, 9th December 2015

 

As the EC sets out its agenda on the future of copyright, IMPALA shares the perspective of thousands of European independent music companies.

 

With millions of songs available across Europe at the touch of a button, independent music companies are at the forefront of the digital market in Europe today, accounting for 80% of all new releases and over 80% of the sector’s jobs.

 

IMPALA welcomes the EU's ambition to make sure all services distributing copyright play by the same rules. Helen Smith, Executive Chair IMPALA, said: "It’s time to get rid of friction in the licensing market, and particularly the so-called ‘value gap’. Some of the biggest online distributors of music are under-licensed or not licensed at all. We welcome the EU’s ambition to fix this and level the playing field. This will benefit all actors across the value chain and help grow the pie."

 

Independents would also like to see the EU tackle what they have dubbed the "power gap" between giant online platforms and smaller actors.  Smith explained: "We  have seen discriminatory and other unfair trading practices which prevent independent music companies and their artists from competing freely in the music market. We need a framework where platforms have to play fair."

 

IMPALA also underlines the importance of transparency and revenue sharing in dealings with artists and performers. Pointing to the work undertaken in this area by the independent sector last year, Smith commented: "Two thirds of the signatories to the independents’ 'fair digital deals declaration' are European and it’s important to build on this. We also need to grow the whole pie by addressing the value gap, as well as stopping platforms from discriminating against smaller players. All artists are born equal."

 

Of course, the value of Europe’s digital music market would also be boosted by a more effective "follow-the-money" approach, which is also flagged in the EU’s communication. IMPALA expects to see more concentrated efforts to tackle services and platforms who generate money through infringement. Smith added: "It is essential for the EU to catch up with the market. An ambitious 'follow-the-money' approach is needed to complement music companies in their bid to boost Europe's digital music market through licensing".

 

As regards the specific proposal on portability (published on the same day as the Communication) IMPALA said: "We agree with the portability of legally acquired content when a citizen is temporarily abroad. Music services tend to be portable and it is important that the outcome is compatible with what is already in  place in music and  works in practice for  other sectors."

 

IMPALA also underlines the opportunity for Europe to take a strategic view on the digital market and copyright, and develop a true industrial policy for culture. Helen Smith concluded: "Reinforcing copyright is an important part of the equation. Developing an industrial policy for culture to grow Europe’s digital economy is where it gets really interesting. Measures to promote investment and diversity, as well as a new regulatory framework for smaller actors, are all key priorities." You can find out more about what is proposed in IMPALA’s Digital Action Plan here.

 

Note:

On 9th December the European Commission presented a Communication on copyright, identifying four priority action areas. While specific proposals will follow in 2016, a first one on portability was already published on the same day as the Communication. The EU also published its plans on digital contracts. IMPALA's statement deals specifically with the copyright Communication. The EU's work on copyright is part of a set of proposals aiming to achieve a Digital Single Market for cultural content.

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