The Guardian, 22nd March 2019
This opinion piece by Debbie Harry was published in The Guardian on 22 March 2019.
Debbie Harry in Blondie in 1976. Photograph: Chris Walter/WireImage
Debbie Harry in The Guardian - "As a musician I’m shocked there’s opposition to a new EU copyright law"
This directive will help artists’ futures with protection from video-streaming services like YouTube. Why lobby against it?
In 2016, I joined a campaign with the music community and other creative sectors to fight to ensure that video-streaming services, such as YouTube, pay fairly for music and other creative content that they profit from. Now, in 2019, we have made great progress, but we are not there yet.
The EU is on the verge of adopting a law that will significantly improve the ability of the creative community to secure fair deals for the use of their work by user-uploaded content services such as YouTube. This legislation, namely article 13 of the proposed copyright directive, would fix a fundamental flaw in the music market known as the “value gap”, where fair revenues are not being returned to those who make the music by these platforms.
It will allow artists to continue to create the music loved by fans all over the world by ensuring that the digital services that generate vast profits from music can no longer claim to have no responsibility for the content their businesses depend on.
Despite the positive impact that this law will have on Europe’s creators, in recent weeks tech companies such as Google and YouTube have used their financial power and reach to lobby to reject the very law that will help secure our future.
And, frankly, I have been shocked by some of the people weighing in on their behalf, especially Lyor Cohen and Wyclef Jean.
Cohen used to be head of Warner Music and was involved in the Recording Industry Association of America, representing artists’ rights in the US. He then set up his independent label, 300 Entertainment, funded by Google, before leaving to become YouTube’s global head of music. He has gone from championing musicians and artists to arguing on behalf of a company helping to take their livelihoods away.
And Jean has been in Brussels holding a press conference to argue against the new law, claiming it will restrict musicians’ ability to collaborate and share.
As a singer-songwriter with more than 40 years of experience in the industry, I know first-hand how much hard work, time and investment it takes to make music. When that music is exploited by these digital services for their own gain, it is devastating to creators.
The European copyright directive would ensure that laws on copyright liability are applied correctly and consistently, so that user-uploaded content services making music available can no longer ride on the back of so-called “safe harbor” privileges to avoid paying fairly for music.
Music can influence the world. Art and music have changed and sculpted our culture for generations. Music matters, musicians matter. The European copyright directive will create a future for Europe’s music and culture. We must not allow YouTube and other platforms to derail this essential legislation for their own narrow interests.