Copyright reform and performers: are decision-makers willing to set things right at last?
Pretty much anyone today enjoys audio and audiovisual content through streaming and downloading platforms such as Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime, iTunes or Spotify. These are not emerging markets anymore but strong and flourishing businesses run by some of the largest corporations the world has ever seen. Whether it is their primary goal or merely ancillary to their hardcore services (e.g. hardware sales or e-commerce), content delivery is a pivotal strategic asset for them.
Despite many new opportunities for musicians, actors, dancers and other performing artists brought about by digital content distribution, their remuneration has never truly recognised the extent of their contribution to the success of the on-demand entertainment business.
One key reason for this is the fact that copyright has not adapted to this shift and has failed to remedy a well-known weakness in the system, whereby exclusive rights – including for on-demand use – are almost invariably transferred to the strongest party (the producer) for a pittance. Most performers have no alternative if they want a chance to sign their next contract. Of little practical importance is for them how successful their work will be in the end, as most of them will not be paid an extra cent. How can this be fair to them?
EU copyright legislation needs a good and audacious fix. While it is legitimate to insist that online platforms should pay taxes in countries where their profits are made, it is also fair to state clearly that the remuneration of performers in the online environment should be coherent with, and proportionate to, all revenues generated by the exploitation of their work.
Now is the time to decide whether corporate interests must prevail over human capital. Whether it is acceptable to let multinational companies consolidate their market dominance and further grow their profits at the expense of those who are contributing to their success.
The FAIR INTERNET coalition engaged with EU legislators aiming to make a real difference for all performers in Europe by asking them to enshrine in European law a guaranteed remuneration when their work is made available online.
Regretfully the on-going copyright reform process has not yielded to this legitimate request. The draft proposal and subsequent amendments have so far conveyed very unexceptional provisions that may only redress individual situations and are likely to benefit only a small number of performers, mostly high profile and already in a position to negotiate better terms.
We strongly urge the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission to endorse the fair and proportionate remuneration of performers as a fundamental, new principle and call on them to preserve as much of article -14, as adopted by the European Parliament.
The outcome of this trilogue must result in a first step in the right direction towards a fair and equitable remuneration of performers from digital services when their performances are made available online.
Performers are at the heart of Europe’s cultural identity, and they must be able to make a decent living from their work. The draft Copyright Directive is an opportunity to make this right, one that should not be missed.