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The European perspective on music’s ‘value gap’ (#midem)


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The music industry’s arguments about the ‘value gap’ tend to be summarised as ‘rightsholders versus YouTube’.

While that’s often the case, there are wider issues in play here around how internet safe-harbour legislation could be modernised. A panel at the Midem conference this afternoon focused on the rightsholders and legislators in this debate in Europe.

The panel included Enzo Mazza from Italian trade body FIMI; Dr Florian Drücke from German body BVMI; and Guillaume Leblanc from France’s SNEP. They were joined by European parliamentarians Jean-Marie Cavada and Christian Ehler, and chairman of the copyright committee at the ministry of culture Professor Paolo Marzano. Music Week’s Mark Sutherland moderated.

No one from YouTube – or any label or artist that speaks in favourable terms about the platform – was on the panel, so it was always going to be a very one-sided discussion. As such, the attacks on the value gap (and we can take the “value gap” to be a synonym for “YouTube”) were pronounced.

Here are the standout quotes from the session.

“No one here is against YouTube”

Enzo Mazza (FIMI): “The value gap is a problem of fairness […] This is not sustainable and not fair. No one here is against YouTube. We are partners with companies like YouTube, but we need to work in the same way. Streaming is a boat in which everyone should row in the same direction.”

“We are all fed up in the music industry to still hear the old excuses…”

Dr Florian Drücke (BVMI): “We have seen GEMA like some sort of last man standing and we saw a huge battle in front of the courts. Then, all of a sudden, there was a settlement. It was proclaimed like a victory over GEMA. Or a huge settlement. Or the user finally getting what they wanted. Of course, it’s a good sign for the consumer. But we have to say that it’s a scandal that the settlement has been made under circumstances where YouTube is not accepting to be accountable for licensing the content […] What we need to fix the value gap is a clarification at the EU level. I strongly believe that not every European country should find their own way to tackle a global player. We see the provisions and the drafts with regards to the Copyright Directive and I think we are all fed up in the music industry to [still] hear the old excuses dating from the early days of the internet. We embraced the changes and we are now hearing the old story of something developing in the internet [that we had to bend to]. That is the way for us to increase the revenues for the entire sector and for everyone participating in the income. It’s not only about the labels. It’s about everyone participating.”

“It’s a liar’s poker”

Christian Ehler (European Parliament): “The American platforms have been very successful as it’s a liar’s poker that suggested an alliance between the consumer and their commercial interests. We have heard the notion that it is free and for consumers. This is a pretension as it’s not for free. The industry gets access to you and you are bombarded with advertisements. We are living now in the time of the second level of revenues – this is the data the consumers are giving to these platforms […] Consumer data becomes more and more important and it’s not well understood that this is not for free […] We are selling our future. Creativity is the USP of Europe. They [the digital companies] accumulate money. Why is Netflix producing TV series? Why is YouTube creating YouTube stars? They do understand that their business is content, not distribution […] We are simply selling our economic future if we are going to lose this battle.”

“…The question of whether YouTube is a content provider or a mere host provider”

Dr Florian Drücke (BVMI): “The [GEMA settlement] was a surprise because, for a long time, GEMA was taking a tough stand here as regards YouTube. There is enormous pressure from the rightsholders to get finally get something out of the usage. It was quite difficult in the press environment to always remind people that the overall issue is not solved. As a lawyer, I would have liked to have seen the courts decide on the question of whether YouTube is a content provider or a mere host provider in Germany. That would have been a very interesting one – but, of course, you could also lose the case and that is why they did the settlement.”

“You have to fight for copyright”

Prof Paolo Marzano (Ministry Of Culture): “It is very difficult and it’s energy taking. But it is so important and magic to give all of your time and energy to fight for creativity. That’s the future. If we want to have a younger generation that has an education, knowledge, an art or whatever you want to call it, you have to fight for copyright.”

“It’s about the cultural future of Europe”

Dr Florian Drücke (BVMI): “You see more and more of the other platforms like Spotify are now being more vocal because they understand that it is unfair competition; that it is unfair competition that has be solved. It is not only the time that the artists and the music industry should be vocal; it is the time when the national governments should get involved and not stay silent. Now it is time to take a position and show that, yes, it’s about the national industries, but it’s also about the cultural future of Europe. That is where you have to take your stand.”

Eamonn Forde

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