Sandie Shaw - Artist and Honorary FAC President Speaks out for music makers
Copyright is the music artists’ lifeblood.
When a music artist writes a song or creates a recording the ownership of that work is a copyright.
Owning and protecting their work enables music makers to financially benefit from their creativity and to choose how their work is used. Copyright is a kind of legal tender and protection, to get our work out there to the public and to make a living.
Traditionally an artist exchanged their copyright in perpetuity in return for a record contract. Not all artists benefited from this but things are changing fast.
The growth of the digital market means music makers now have so many more opportunities for their music to be heard and enjoyed.
As a result, artists are being empowered. More and more are making choices as to whether to maintain their copyright by funding their recordings themselves and then licensing them to a record label for a limited period of time.
Artists who own their copyright are able to choose whether to allow record labels to negotiate with tech companies on their behalf, or whether to do deals directly on their creativity.
When deals are struck, increasingly tech companies are committed to the practice of licensing copyright, as well as fair remuneration to rights holders and artists. Sadly there are some, like Google’s YouTube, who don’t. They choose to enable others to avoid the laws of copyright and instead hide behind legal loopholes. This denies artists what is rightfully theirs.
It’s time to close these legal loopholes. It must be clear that when a service is enabling access to copyright, this is a licenseable act - no ifs, no buts, no gaps.
There must be a fair and level playing field for all members of the creators community and tech industry to do business together. We desperately need the EU to put an end to these legal disparities so that music not only survives but thrives.
If this continues, music will die.
I am not a lone voice crying in the wind. This has support of established music artists such as Sir Paul McCartney, Annie Lennox OBE and Robbie Williams as well as those on the first rungs of the ladder.
This is why this week all creators, not only of music, are embroiled in a fight to protect their rights against legal gaps which mean not everyone has to pay to use music.
If we don’t close those gaps, it could have a profound impact on our future generation of artists, musicians and performers. It is vital that this opportunity to hold the likes of Google fully to account is not missed. Some content services like Spotify do pay - everyone should have the same obligations.
The Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market faces a key vote in the European Parliament. The Directive proposes a proportionate step towards developing a fair digital market. It would close the gaps, clarify obligations for using copyright and pay creators.
The Directive contains a number of proposals which would boost the earnings of creators in the music industry. For example, it would address these transfer of value gaps where non-subscription streaming sites like Google’s YouTube benefit from “safe harbour” legislation. This means they are not held responsible for user-generated content or uploaded content that they host. The result is that some services pay an unacceptably low amount compared to others, for the music enjoyed by billions of users.
A vote against the proposals in the European Parliament on Thursday may effectively block the Directive’s ability to become law, meaning the perilous situation where music creators only receive $0.0007 per video play on YouTube is allowed to continue indefinitely.
This really matters to artists. It should matter to all YOU Tube ‘citizen creators’.
According to research carried out last year by the Office of National Statistics, the average wage in the UK was £27,271 a year.
After analysing the earnings of more than 21 million people, it concluded that musicians earned significantly less at £21,410 than many other professions. The same is true for other parts of the music business.
Musicians, composers, songwriters and lyricists added £2 billion in goods and services, or Gross Value Added (GVA), to the UK’s economy.
However, this masks the fact that the majority of people involved in the music business in the UK earn nothing like the famous chart-toppers.
For many people, the music industry is a labour of love and not about a love of money. This said, if we are to develop a future generation of talent we need to take every opportunity to protect vital income streams that make developing musical careers sustainable.
All tech giants need to start paying fair rates. The Directive will make a real difference to ensuring creators are fairly rewarded for the use of their work.
Lucie Caswell FAC CE0 says:
“ Copyright is art. Copyright is the creativity of someone’s talent. We want to ensure that talented creatives are recognised and paid for the work we all enjoy. We work tirelessly for a world which is progressive, fair and transparent for creatives to thrive in. Support the Directive, support culture, support talent.“