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A New Narrative - Some ideas for a Heart and Soul to go with Europe’s Body and Mind

Brussels – 28th October 2014

 

“Europe needs a societal paradigm shift – in fact, nothing short of a ‘New Renaissance’”. This is part of the New Narrative for Europe, as set out in the Declaration “The Mind and Body of Europe” drafted by the project’s cultural committee.

 

So how can the ideal of Renaissance be implemented in Europe today? How can Europe’s creativity and science once again revive its true potential?

 

Let’s think about how we might take a few steps forward.

 

Europe’s creativity is a local, sustainable and abundant source of both material and immaterial wealth. Best of all Europe’s creativity is a resource that will never run out.

 

Making Europe the best place in the world for creators and culture enthusiasts must be a fundamental part of any New Renaissance.

 

Creativity is also fundamental to being a leader in the online world, culturally, economically and socially, as well as in terms of international soft power.

 

Europe must be the first to come up with a truly sustainable and inclusive digital ecosystem.  This means placing creators and people at its centre. This is essential if technology is to be an “empowering extension of creativity and society” as called for in the Declaration. The American author Jaron Lanier, pioneer of virtual reality and laureate of the prestigious German Book Trade Peace Prize, summed this up when calling for “digital humanism”.

 

Humanist constructs like copyright and empowerment must accompany technological advances. Embracing these as fundamental rights and enablers is essential to social and economic well-being.

 

Strong creators’ rights liberate creativity. Rights enable creators to benefit from the material and moral interest resulting from their work. Copyright is a security for young people who choose a career in creative sectors and for those who invest in artists and take risks in the creative process. Taking a strong stance is essential to avoid creators effectively transferring their right to trade to those parties who are behind the calls for weaker copyright. Dignity and fairness need to be present at all levels of the value chain. Over the summer, independent record labels from all over the world have signed the Fair Digital Deals Declaration, officially committing to treat artists fairly in regard to the digital exploitation of their works by third parties. Nearly two thirds of signatories so far are European, which is very encouraging.

 

If we are to access a new societal paradigm, we will also require a forward-thinking approach to how our online world is regulated.

 

Who does Europe want to see making decisions?  What about all the issues regarding the "right to be forgotten", citizens’ data, their privacy and their right to have unbiased search results? What about freedom of expression and pluralism? Is Europe on the right road? Why am I being subject to austerity measures when nothing is done about big corporations simply not paying tax? 

 

These are some of the burning questions Europe's citizens want to see addressed.

 

Earlier this year many independent labels were told by YouTube that their content would be blocked if they did not agree to "take it or leave it" terms. Is that how we want our artists to be treated? Should Europe tolerate this type of censorship?

 

Germany has recently set out a new Digital Agenda calling for some fundamental changes to the online world, from data to creators’ rights.

 

We quote from this Agenda because it speaks for itself and is so important for creators:

Germany wants to see to it that “service providers whose business models are essentially based on infringement of copyright can no longer hide behind the liability privilege as hosting provider”. It will ensure “non-discriminatory, neutral access to distribution channels and content”. It will also seek to ensure that “innovation and competition can develop unhindered by any abusive activities carried out by dominant internet corporations”.

 

These principles are crucial building blocks for the whole of Europe.

 

So is taxation. Citizens and creative structures continue to experience austerity measures which would be completely avoidable if online operators and multinationals paid minimum taxes. A fair and inclusive direct taxation policy would really herald a new societal paradigm and restore the faith of citizens across Europe.

 

The cuts we see today in Belgium will include the Bozar, where the book “The Mind and Body of Europe: a New Narrative” was presented. This is not an isolated incident. It is part of a pattern of similar measures across Europe as we all know, but it is so fresh it serves as a useful reminder that Europe must help its members get their priorities right. The European Commission has shown the way here, with Commissioner Vassiliou managing to not only preserve, but also increase the EU’s own budget for culture.

 

Finally, we must promote the role of hundreds of thousands of small actors and individual creators who make up Europe’s creative and cultural sectors. This is important because they are at the heart of our culture, our innovation, our diversity, our social well-being, our pluralism, our investment and of course our jobs. Music is a good example with 80% of all new music being released by micro, small or medium sized actors, who also account for 80% of the sector’s jobs.

 

Let’s level the playing field for smaller actors.

 

Let’s see some concrete action to increase diversity and pluralism in production, distribution and consumption of cultural works. What about scoreboards to measure performance in these areas? What about a cultural diversity charter for stakeholders to adhere to? Let’s see this for online and offline media.

 

Let’s see a new regulatory, competition, social and fiscal framework.

 

Let’s see concrete measures which actually implement the New Narrative. 

 

Let’s have a heart and soul with the body and mind.

 

Let Europe’s creativity be the cradle for its New Narrative.  

 

Contribution by IMPALA (Independent Music Companies Association), signatory to the Declaration ‘The Mind and Body of Europe’.

IMPALA’s ideas will be elaborated further in a new action plan to be published shortly.

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