Songwriters fight threat to royalties

EC told to leave system alone

LONDON — European songwriters and composers are lobbying the European Commission over proposals that could harm the royalties they earn from their work.

The EC has been investigating the way in which music royalties are collected after suggestions that the current system is unfair. At the moment, each of the 27 EU member states have separate royalty collection agencies, but it has been claimed that this means that each agency in fact enjoys a monopoly, therefore contravening European law.

One of the proposed remedies that legislators are contemplating would involve standardizing the rate that composers are paid throughout the continent and this has rung alarm bells throughout the creative side of the music industry.

As a result, Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees led a delegation from the European Composer and Songwriter Alliance to Brussels on Thursday to warn the Commission of the consequences that such measures might have on the artistic community.

ECSA argues that by standardizing the royalty rates paid to composers, the gateway would be open for online music giants such as Apple’s iTunes to negotiate lower region-wide fees, meaning that the musicians who write the music could get less money for their work.

“On a fundamental scale, it’s a human right that someone who writes a piece of work should have control of it,” Gibb said in a statement.

ECSA’s campaign is backed by hundreds of singers, musicians and composers — including Charles Aznavour, Sade, David Gilmour, Julio Iglesias, Maurice Jarre, Mark Knopfler and Michel Legrand.

On the flip side, a standardized royalty rate would make Europe more accessible for online music stores. Currently many e-tailers do not operate throughout the continent because they are put off by the complexities of operating in each individual country.

The Commission’s antitrust investigation is expected to be concluded this month.

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