Brussels, 14 June 2021,

Tomorrow is an important day for EU-US relations. It is also an important day for culture and music. The EU and the USA are global leaders and have two of the strongest music markets in the world. Underpinned by copyright, revenues from performance and broadcast are crucial. In Europe these rights are guaranteed under law, implementing international copyright conventions. In the USA, there is no protection for performers and producers when music is played on terrestrial radio or television or in public places such as malls, bars and cafes. 

International copyright rules enshrine the reciprocity principle, which is also applied by many European member states. It means a level playing field as performers and producers need protection in their home country to be able to claim revenues in another country. This is vital as it raises the level of protection generally.  

The EC is currently reviewing the disastrous impact of a decision of the European Court of Justice of September 2020 on thousands of recording artists and smaller labels in Europe. The court flagged that the principle of reciprocity now needs to be specific in legislation and the EC is looking at this issue. Without fixing that, European collecting societies for producers and performers would have to pay to countries who don’t provide for reciprocal rights for their own territory. For the USA alone, the amount at stake exceeds 125 million euros annually. 

At a time when revenues from broadcasting and public performance have plummeted and performers have been unable to play live for such a long time as a result of Covid, this will have a devastating effect on many European performers and labels. IMPALA looks to the EU to fix this situation urgently so that EU member states can continue to decide individually for themselves whether they want to apply this principle, as they have been able to for decades.

It is now essential for the USA to bring its national legislation into line with the EU and the summit tomorrow is an excellent opportunity to seek that engagement, building on the determination of the new US administration to promote real change in key policy areas. IMPALA has also joined other stakeholder organisations in calling for visa issues to be addressed to boost cultural trading.

Helen Smith, Executive Chair of IMPALA, said: “The EU-US summit is an excellent opportunity to reinforce the vital principle of reciprocity, and for the new US president to take the lead and bring American copyright laws into line with European and international rules. This is ultimately about maximum protection for all. We need to urgently reinforce reciprocity of treatment otherwise huge sums will now have to be paid across the Atlantic for US sound recordings with little in return in respect of EU recordings played or performed in the USA. Now is not the time to lose 125m euros per year. European parliamentarians have also flagged the importance of this issue.”

Kees van Weijen, President of IMPALA and chair of STOMP in the Netherlands added: “The European Union has a long history of strong protection of producers and performers in the music industry. Its approach has been an example for many to follow. The United States is unique in the world as the only major music market not providing performers and labels with income from the playing of music on terrestrial radio and in public places. Reciprocity remains an important tool to convince the US to bring their legislation up to the level of the European Union and create a true level playing field for the European and American music industry. In the Netherlands alone, we can already see the impact of this case on Dutch labels and performers in a big way, especially independent labels and artists.”

IMPALA – Independent Music Companies Association

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