European composers and songwriters threatened yesterday (3 July) to “play havoc” with the music market by withdrawing their catalogues if the European Commission goes ahead with its plan to introduce more competition between collecting societies.
After a meeting with the Commission, David Ferguson, a film and television composer who is also spokesman for the European Composer and Songwriter Alliance (ECSA), said he had “severe doubts” about the EU executive’s plans to ban the existing system of reciprocal contracts among collecting societies.
The ban, which would rid contracts of current “affiliation clauses” and, according to the Commission, make it easier for authors to choose between different collecting societies, would concern the growing markets of online, cable and satellite retransmission of music, not the traditional forms of exploitation.
But ECSA claims that introducing competition among collecting societies would mainly affect the smallest societies – “who represent less mainstream repertoires” – ultimately decreasing cultural diversity in the European music landscape.
In a letter sent to Commission President José Manuel Barroso, the songwriters threaten to “bring war to the Commission” and call for a renewed dialogue, involving them and the different directorates of the EU executive – not only its competition department.
Indeed, ECSA hopes that the Commission’s internal market, information society and culture departments may be keener to listen to their positions. However, recent moves by Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy are not exactly considered to be in the interests of music rights holders (see EURACTIV 15/02/08).
But the EU’s Competition spokesperson defended its decision, with measures foreseen “by the end of July”, although no specific date has been agreed as yet. According to the EU executive, a ban would also be in the interest of authors because it would increase the efficiency of collecting societies.
While the Commission seems determined to go ahead with this plan, another blow to music authors came yesterday (3 July) as major telecom companies and Internet service providers rejected the idea of being forced to punish illegal downloads of copyrighted products across the EU.
The suggestion had been thrown onto the table during debates on the EU Telecoms package review, which will be voted by the European Parliament next September. But it could nevertheless win backing from Brussels, especially under the French Presidency, since France is the only country in the EU where punitive measures have been already decided against online piracy (see EURACTIV 10/12/07).