“Can YouTube be embarrassed?”
Music 4.5: The Politics of Licensing was full of insight and expertise on the complex licensing landscape. This is the first of our blog posts about the day’s discussions – next we will look at “the platform wars” between the different streaming services, what is being done in Europe to align different licensing methods and ease the complexity for rightsholders and artists, insights around sync licensing and direct licensing, and what Sky UK has to say its experience trying to license music for its channel.
“The world of licensing will never be the same after 2016,” said Sophie Goossens of August Debouzy, who opened and chaired Music 4.5: The Politics of Licensing on 27 September 2016.
The seminar, which was conceived, organized and executed by 2Pears, illustrated and dissected the complex music licensing landscape and the legislation – existing and proposed – that underpins its complexity.
It also explored different ideas for breaching “the value gap” – the discrepancy between YouTube’s revenues and the royalties it pays out to rightsholders, as well as other ‘value gaps’, namely music rights for broadcasters.
“With streaming, a complex licensing model emerged.”
Chris Cooke of CMU kicked off the seminar with his now-traditional “story so far,” providing background and commercial context for the discussions to come. He compared the simplicity of licensing when the main mode of delivery was CDs to now, when licensing rules are often unknown even to rightsholders. “With streaming, a complex licensing model emerged, with key elements shrouded in secrecy,” he said.
The end of EU and US safe harbor?
Sophie Goossens highlighted how the new EU directive on copyright aims to abolish such secrecy, including “transparency obligations, where authors and publishers shall receive timely, adequate and sufficient info on the exploitation of their works and performances, the notable mode of exploitation and the revenue generated,” she said. She also pointed out that the new directive requires service providers to “take measures such as content recognition” to ensure rightsholders are paid when their works are used.
“DMCA is broken and no longer works for creators,” said Simon Jordan, Artist and Music lawyer at Russells. “Music consumption has skyrocketed, but the monies earned by individual writers and artists for that consumption have plummeted.”
Last summer saw 170 artists sign a petition to the US Congress to end safe harbor provisions for digital service providers, but while DMCA has been successfully challenged in other areas, whether or not a bill will reach the floor remains to be seen.
Is legislation the only way to close “the value gap”?
“The value gap” and how to close it was a reoccurring theme through the seminar. Tom Frederikse , partner at law firm Clintons, chaired the first panel discussion, and asked if there was “there any way to address [the value gap and safe harbor] and effect change without a full concerted effect from the industry and government?”
“The only way to deal with YouTube is to fight”
Virginie Berger, CEO of Armonia, the online music licensing and processing platform, “would love a settlement without law, but it’s tricky with YouTube,” she said. She cited SACEM as one of the first collecting societies to force YouTube to pay for the music videos it hosted four years ago. A year later YouTube campaigned for a reversal, but ceased “because they didn’t want to argue with SACEM.”
“The only way to deal with YouTube is to fight,” she said. “I would love to not ask the EC to do something, but as YouTube is big tech giant you need to show that you’re ready to fight. In France [forcing YouTube to pay] was the only way to monetise music video. There is no other solution.”
Becky Brook, formerly of Omnifone, was for legislation, even though she was “on the fence.” The goal, she said, should be a “level playing field so that streaming services aren’t competing against YouTube.”
“The market needs to be saturated with paid subscriptions”
Reaching this level-playing field has become a running theme of the Music 4.5 seminars. The price point for and features of subscription services need to make premium and low-cost memberships the norm to create a level-playing field between the different streaming services.
“The market needs to be saturated with paid subscriptions,” said Åsa Carlid of ICE Services, the business process outsourcing for rightsholders and rights management companies made up of PRS for Music, STIM and GEMA.
“But to get YouTube to be on the same playing field as other services you need legislation,” said Simon Jordan of Russells. “We’re not going to get to a level-playing field having a free platform.”
“Changing the nature of the internet”
Tom Frederikse, who has been dealing with DMCA since it came out in 1998, called it “the most complicated legal question I’ve ever looked at. Every single service is relying on the idea that they won’t be liable for the crap we put online,” he said. “I don’t know how we tweak this without changing the nature of the Internet.”
Our next London-based Music 4.5 will take place on 22 November 2016 and will explore “The New Creative Tech” – what opportunities and challenges do new creative technologies such as Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Mixed Reality, and Artificial Intelligence involve for artists, creators, and the music and entertainment industry?
Early bird tickets are available until 7 October 2016. Get yours today.