Brussels, 7th May 2015
Independent music companies welcomed the announcement yesterday by the European Commission that it will introduce a series of measures to improve Europe's online environment. IMPALA also calls for an industrial policy for culture to increase Europe's cultural lead internationally.
Among the measures proposed by the EC, clarifying the rules on the activities of online intermediaries with regard to copyright-protected works will be particularly important. This addresses the unintended "value gap" which needs to be closed by clarifying that those who distribute or intervene in distribution are active and responsible for obtaining licences and are not neutral carriers who can benefit from the so-called "safe harbour".
Helen Smith commented: "This addresses a fundamental barrier to licensing in Europe today which holds Europe's Digital Single Market back and causes an unintended 'value gap' for our members."
Independent music companies also welcome the European Commission's bid to tackle the wider issue of the role of online platforms and intermediaries and particularly the relationship between big online platforms and SME suppliers.
Helen Smith added: "It is crucial to address trading practices which frustrate competition and which are particularly prevalent in the online environment. An open, diverse and competitive digital market is crucial to independents and other players."
IMPALA expects the Commission to continue to underline the importance of competition in the online space and resist pressure from dominant market operators to impose particular business models.
IMPALA also welcomes the move to step up action against illegal activity, with plans to focus on commercial scale infringements of intellectual property through a "follow the money" approach, as well as a review of intermediaries' duty of care.
Today, music is available everywhere in Europe, across borders and through many different channels. What is now needed is a licensing market that is free from barriers to access. A level playing field is key.
Europe needs ambition and inspiration – the time is ripe for a new industrial policy focusing on the unique strength and diversity of Europe's cultural and creative sectors, as flagged by IMPALA in its Digital Action Plan.
Helen Smith concluded: "An industrial policy for culture is essential to achieve a successful Digital Single Market through which Europe will be the world's strongest and most inclusive digital player."
IMPALA was established in April 2000 to represent European independent music companies. One of IMPALA's missions is to keep the music market as open and competitive as possible. IMPALA has an impressive record on competition cases in the music sector. The first EMI/Warner merger was withdrawn in 2001 following objections from the EU after IMPALA intervened, in its first year of existence. It also won a landmark judgment in 2006 in the Sony/BMG case, and when Sony acquired 30% of EMI publishing in 2012, it was at the cost of significant divestments. The biggest set of remedies proportionately ever in a merger case was secured later that year, when UMG was forced to sell two thirds of EMI records and had to accept ten years of scrutiny over the terms of its digital deals. When WMG bought Parlophone in 2013, IMPALA secured a hefty divestments package for its members. On top of mergers, IMPALA has also been involved in other anti-trust cases involving the music sector, such as the abuse complaint against YouTube in 2014 and the call for regulating unfair business practices by large online players. IMPALA has also submitted observations on Apple’s bid to acquire Shazam. See the organisation's other key achievements in IMPALA's milestones.