Brussels, 10th May 2017
The European Commission published today the mid-term review of one of its top priorities, the digital single market. The report evaluates the progress made at the midpoint and sets out some new policies.
Proposals on copyright and geo-blocking are going through the legislative process. Other areas such as the responsibility of online platforms are still in the pipeline. "These are areas where Europe can take the lead worldwide. Recalibrating the digital market is vital for independent music companies who are at its forefront and account for 80% of all new music releases” said Helen Smith.
The Commission is expected by the end of the year to table far-reaching proposals tackling online platforms and their conduct towards smaller players. Helen Smith explained: "Unfair trading practices have become commonplace in the online environment. There is a ‘power gap’ that distorts competition – it needs to be addressed and we hope the Commission’s upcoming proposals in this area will be up to the task”.
At the same time, copyright reform is already in a crucial phase, with a proposal from the Commission being reviewed by parliamentarians and member states. Tackling the value gap and ensuring the independents can continue to take risks and pay artists fairly are IMPALA’s key priorities on copyright. Helen Smith noted: “We believe the Commission set out a balanced approach by clarifying the status of platforms actively distributing copyrighted works. It should not be watered-down, for example with an exception for user-generated content that would be a step back in time”.
Underlining the importance of the independent sector’s commitments to artists, Helen Smith commented: “The independents are already leading the way with their voluntary initiatives such as the WIN Fair Digital Deals Declaration. Being heavy handed with contract adjustment clauses or introducing a new remuneration right for performers would cut across our own measures and undermine the ability of independent music companies to invest in artists and music”.
Portability of services is a longstanding practice in the music sector and the European legislator last year set out a clear framework around this. The current legislative focus is on geo-blocking and IMPALA believes recent discussions about whether copyright services should be included in the scope of the Regulation are misguided. “Portability is the priority here and including copyright in the geo-blocking Regulation is a step too far. It will remove the possibility for independent music companies looking after local markets to hold exclusive territorial licences and upset the fragile licensing systems which independents and their artists rely on. The ability for music services to prevent forum shopping will also be removed, which will lead to increased prices and a surge in piracy” continued Helen Smith.
More generally, as flagged by IMPALA in its Digital Action Plan, it is crucial that a new European industrial policy focusing on the unique strength and diversity of Europe’s cultural and creative sectors accompanies this legislative process. IMPALA welcomes the Parliament Report on a coherent EU policy for cultural and creative industries, adopted in 2016, as well as the proposal for a Music Preparatory Action recently tabled by several Members of the Parliament, the first step towards a fully-fledged EU Music Programme.
Helen Smith concluded: “A strong digital single market will establish the best conditions for creators and their partners to work across borders. Creation must be at the heart of Europe’s digital strategy. Making Europe the intellectual property capital of the world with a healthy distortion-free licensing environment is key to a successful and inclusive digital market.”
IMPALA was established in April 2000 to represent independent music companies. 99% of Europe’s music companies are SMEs. Known as the “independents”, they are world leaders in terms of innovation and discovering new music and artists - they produce more than 80% of all new releases and account for 80% of the sector's jobs (for more information, see the features of independents). IMPALA's mission is to grow the independent music sector, return more value to artists, promote cultural diversity and entrepreneurship, improve political access and modernise perceptions of the music sector. See the organisation's key achievements in IMPALA's first 15 years in milestones.