Final article 13 text approved by EU negotiators
Negotiations on the much talked-about European Copyright Directive have concluded with an agreement on the final text, including the controversial Article 13 provision.
The final trilogue phase of the Copyright Directive talks began on Monday evening after EU member states voted last week on an agreed negotiating position. The text was finalised late evening on Wednesday 13 February.
The final text includes the controversial article 13 provision which has proved a point of contention between the music and technology industries and, more recently, has caused rifts within the music industry itself.
The article requires online content sharing platforms such as social networks or video-sharing sites like YouTube, to combat the sharing of copyrighted works and offer “fair remuneration”, by filtering posts or requiring licenses for user-generated content.
European music industry organisations have so far welcomed the news.
According to PRS for Music chief executive, Robert Ashcroft, the news of a final text is “a welcome relief for all involved”.
“This directive has generated an unprecedented level of debate and a wave of misinformation”
“This directive has generated an unprecedented level of debate and a wave of misinformation from the open internet lobby, so I commend all of those who have battled through it to arrive at a text to put to the European Parliament,” says Ashcroft.
“Our mission has only ever been to achieve a fair and functioning digital market and, as a result, fair reward for creators. Subject to final scrutiny of the text and the forthcoming vote in Parliament it looks today as though we are going to achieve our aim.”
Harald Heker, chief executive of the German society for musical performing and mechanical reproduction rights (GEMA), says the directive has “been overdue for years”.
“Thanks to the directive, online platforms will finally have to pay authors a fair remuneration for the usage of their works,” comments Heker. “The draft of the directive that we now have in front of us imposes a higher level of responsibility onto the online platforms and strengthens the position of creators as well as internet users at the same time.”
Véronique Desbrosses, director general of the European Grouping of Societies of Authors and Composers (GESAC) calls the development a “major achievement” and thanks decision-makers for reaching an agreement on a “complex and sensitive piece of legislation.”
“It [the directive] will enable creators to be remunerated fairly by large online platforms that today are siphoning the value of the creative sector while failing to compensate creators.”
“The directive will enable creators to be remunerated fairly by large online platforms that are siphoning the value of the creative sector”
Both Desbrosses and GESAC president, Anders Lassen, emphasise that a careful assessment of the final text is still required.
Last week, representatives from the music industry including the International Confederation of Music Publishers (ICMP), International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) and Independent Music Companies Association (IMPALA), wrote an open letter calling on negotiators to halt proceedings on the current European Copyright Directive and stating the proposal would “cause serious harm” to the industry.
In response, the UK’s Council of Music Makers voiced its support for the directive, criticising the collective’s stance and accepting the directive as a “compromise”.
Executive chair of IMPALA, Helen Smith, commends EU institutions on a “great job reaching the compromise in time”, stating that the organisation believes their “concerns were heard.”
“We need to see the final text, but this legislation will be the first time anywhere in the world that there is absolute confirmation that user upload services are covered by copyright and need a licence,” says Smith.
The final proposal will now go before the European Parliament legal affairs committee before a final vote takes place in late March or early April. The agreement is a major step towards turning the directive into law.
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Music organisations reject EU Copyright Directive
A collective of European creative industry businesses and rightsholders, including several music organisations, are calling on negotiators to halt proceedings on the current European Copyright Directive.
The International Confederation of Music Publishers (ICMP), International Federation of the phonographic industry (IFPI) and Independent Music Companies Association (IMPALA) are among the signatories of an open letter warning against the European Council’s latest drafts for the Copyright Directive, which they believe grants too large a concession to technology companies.
The music organisations join representatives from the audio-visual, broadcasting and sports industries in the “group of rightsholders” signing the letter. The group claims that the current text “no longer meets these [originally agreed] objectives, not only in respect of any one article, but as a whole.”
“The key aims of the original draft Directive were to create a level playing field in the online Digital Single Market and strengthen the ability of European rightsholders to create and invest in new and diverse content across Europe,” reads the statement.
“Far from levelling the playing field, the proposed approach would cause serious harm by not only failing to meet its objectives, but actually risking leaving European producers, distributors and creators worse off.”
“Far from levelling the playing field, the proposed approach would cause serious harm risking leaving European producers, distributors and creators worse off”
The organisations state that “no directive at all” is preferable to a “bad directive”, and call on negotiators not to continue on the basis of the Council’s latest proposals.
Last month, lawmakers cancelled a scheduled approval meeting for the directive, as the European Council failed to reach an agreement surrounding controversial Article 13. The most recent amendments are the result of a compromise between France and Germany.
Under the agreement, Article 13 applies to all for-profit online sharing platforms, compelling services to take “effective and proportionate” action to combat the sharing of copyrighted works. The amendment would oblige all services to install upload filters, except those fitting all three following criteria:
- The service has been publicly available within the EU for fewer than three years
- The service has an annual turnover below 10 million
- The service has fewer than five million unique monthly visitors
The European Parliament voted to accept an updated version of the Copyright Directive in September, in a move celebrated by collection societies, PROs, publishers and music industry associations. The legislation then went to the European Council for final revision.
“Under these conditions, we would rather have no Directive at all than a bad Directive”
The update included the approval of controversial Article 13, putting the onus on online platforms to combat the sharing of copyrighted works, by filtering posts or requiring licenses for user-generated content.
Opponents to the article, notably large technology companies, argue that it would “mandate internet platforms to embed an automated infrastructure for monitoring and censorship deep into their networks.”
For ICMP chair Chris Butler, Article 13 is “necessary to redress the grotesque imbalance music publishers face online.”
The Council Of Music Makers – that brings together the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA), Featured Artists Coalition (FAC), Music Managers Forum (MMF), Music Producers Guild (MPG) and the Musicians’ Union (MU) – has called on negotiators “to proceed with the copyright directive”, adding that “while the current text could be improved and still includes some problematic provisions, it is a compromise.” The Council criticises the collective’s call to halt proceedings.
The collective’s full letter can be read below:
We are writing as a group of rightsholders representing the music, audio-visual, broadcasting and sports industries, regarding the direction of travel for the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market.
The key aims of the original draft Directive were to create a level playing field in the online Digital Single Market and strengthen the ability of European rightsholders to create and invest in new and diverse content across Europe.
Despite our constant commitment in the last two years to finding a viable solution, and having proposed many positive alternatives, the text – as currently drafted and on the table – no longer meets these objectives, not only in respect of any one article, but as a whole. As rightsholders we are not able to support it or the impact it will have on the European creative sector.
We appreciate the efforts made by several parties to attempt to achieve a good compromise in the long negotiations of recent months. Nevertheless, the outcome of these negotiations in several of the Council discussions has been to produce a text which contains elements which fundamentally go against copyright principles enshrined in EU and international copyright law.
Far from levelling the playing field, the proposed approach would cause serious harm by not only failing to meet its objectives, but actually risking leaving European producers, distributors and creators worse off.
Regrettably, under these conditions we would rather have no Directive at all than a bad Directive. We therefore call on negotiators to not proceed on the basis of the latest proposals from the Council.
Yours sincerely, the undersigned.
ACT – Association of Commercial Television in Europe
AKTV – Czech Association of Commercial Television
DFL – German Football League
ICMP – The Global Voice of Music Publishing
IFPI – Representing the Recording Industry Worldwide
IMPALA – Independent Music Companies
Association La Liga – The Spanish Football League
Mediapro – Independent Production Company
The Premier League – The English Football League
Związek Pracodawców Prywatnych Mediów – Polish Union of Private Media Employers, Lewiatan
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Article 13 vote: Music orgs celebrate as critics lament “worst possible outcome”
European collection societies, PROs, publishers and music industry associations have welcomed today’s vote in favour of key provisions of the new EU Copyright Directive.
In a plenary session held earlier this afternoon, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted 438 to 226 in favour of an updated version of the directive, tabled by German MEP Axel Voss, including the much-discussed Article 13, which would compel “online content sharing service providers”, such as social networks or video-sharing sites like YouTube, to take “effective and proportionate” measures – which most believe would take the shape of automatic filters – to combat the sharing of copyrighted works.
The second vote follows an earlier defeat for the bill, on 5 July, which was met with disappointment by much of the music industry. Music bodies, especially collection societies/performance rights organisations, and their counterparts in the tech sector are sharply divided on the merits of the new directive, especially its controversial Article 13: songwriters’ representatives say the legislation would ensure fair remuneration of creators when their works are used online, while internet freedom activists, including the web’s creator, Tim Berners Lee, have said it would transform the internet into a “tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users”.
The amended Article 13, as voted on today, would only apply to platforms that host “significant amounts” of uploads and “promote” them, with an exception for small/micro enterprises, according to German Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda, a prominent critic of the legislation, who dismisses Voss’s “cosmetic changes”.
Today’s vote means the European Parliament (the EU’s legislature) will now take the Copyright Directive to the European Council (the EU’s collective presidency, composed of the leaders of its member states), to decide the shape of the final legislation.
The director-general of Cisac, the network of authors’ rights societies – one of the initiators of the Europe for Creators initiative, which campaigned for a ‘yes’ vote – describes the vote as a “historic decision that will send a ripple effect around the world”. “The EU parliament has stood up for the core values that have underpinned Europe’s culture and creative industries’ protection for centuries,” comments Gadi Oron.
Repeating claims made by Article 13 supporters that fears of automated “censorship machines” and a ban on memes are unfounded and stoked by tech giants that stand to lose out from free access to copyrighted content, Oron adds: “Despite an onslaught of misinformation by big tech companies, Europe has led the way in bringing fairness to creators in the digital world. This was a vote cast in Europe, but which has positive implications for the future working environment of creators across the world.”
“Europe has led the way in bringing fairness to creators in the digital world”
Chris Butler, chair of the International Confederation of Music Publishers (ICMP), comments: “We are delighted with today’s vote, which is a clear victory for rightsholders. Article 13 of the directive is necessary to redress the grotesque imbalance music publishers face online and we urge Mr Voss and his team to stand firm in their upcoming negotiations with member state governments.”
“It is a great day for culture and music in Europe as the Copyright Directive is adopted by the European Parliament,” says Paul Pacifico, CEO of the Association of Independent Music (AIM), which represents independent UK record labels. “I would like to thank the MEPs from all parties for their energetic and highly engaged approach to this very sensitive and important legislation that stands to benefit the next generation of music artists and creators online who generate the content we all enjoy.”
Robert Ashcroft, chief executive of British collection society PRS for Music, says: “The European Parliament today took a bold step forward to ensure a functioning and sustainable digital single market for creative content. PRS for Music has fought from the beginning for digital services to pay all creators fairly for the content they use. Today’s vote was a ringing endorsement of our work and that of our colleagues in the industry over the last five years.”
UK Music CEO Michael Dugher says the vote marks a “fantastic victory” for “all those involved in the UK music industry”.
“I would congratulate the MEPs, British MPs, musicians, creators, investors and all who worked so tirelessly in support of these vital safeguards – despite the campaign of misinformation by [YouTube owner] Google and their allies,” he comments. “There must be no watering down of this breakthrough commitment to creators. It’s important that everyone continues to work together to implement real change as quickly as possible.”
The European Grouping of Societies of Authors and Composers (Gesac) – another Europe for Creators backer – believes the vote is “a victory for Europe and its independence from a few tech giants who have profited off outdated legislation to further consolidate unhealthy dominance and to siphon value out of Europe and its creators,” according to president Anders Lassen.
“the European Parliament is putting corporate profits over freedom of speech”
Reaction isn’t been so positive outside the music industry, with members of the public flooding social media to lament what many are describing as “the death of the internet”.
Along with 49 other MEPs, Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake had previously tried to amend the legislation, hoping to avoid draconian ‘upload filters’ by instead mandating that YouTube secure licences from all rightsholders, as well as secure an exemption for memes, gifs and other user-generated parodies. She describes today’s events as the “worst possible outcome” for “ordinary internet users”. “With this vote we are taking a step backwards instead of creating a copyright reform for the 21st century,” she comments.
Reda, meanwhile, calls the vote “a severe blow to the free and open internet. By endorsing new legal and technical limits on what we can post and share online, the European Parliament is putting corporate profits over freedom of speech and abandoning long-standing principles that made the internet what it is today.”
However, in a joint statement that welcomes the vote to “start negotiations on modern copyright rules”, the European Commission – which proposed the copyright directive in September 2016 – maintains the directive will benefit EU citizens and creators alike.
Say the Commission’s vice-president for the digital single market, Andrus Ansip, and commissioner for digital economy and society, Mariya Gabriel: “Our aim for this reform is to bring tangible benefits for EU citizens, researchers, educators, writers, artists, press and cultural heritage institutions and to open up the potential for more creativity and content by clarifying the rules and making them fit for the digital world. At the same time, we aim to safeguard free speech and ensure that online platforms – including 7,000 European online platforms – can develop new and innovative offers and business models.
“The Commission stands ready to start working with the European Parliament and the Council of the EU, so that the directive can be approved as soon as possible, ideally by the end of 2018. We are fully committed to working with the co-legislators in order to achieve a balanced and positive outcome enabling a true modernisation of the copyright legislation that Europe needs.”
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“A setback but not the end”: Rights bodies lament Article 13 defeat
Collecting societies and performance rights organisations across Europe have reacted with disappointment to the rejection of the proposed EU Copyright Directive by MEPs earlier today.
In the run-up to today’s vote, music industry bodies and their counterparts in the tech sector were sharply divided on the merits of the new directive, especially its controversial Article 13: songwriters’ representatives say the legislation would ensure fair remuneration of creators when their works are used online, while internet freedom activists, including the web’s creator, Tim Berners Lee, have said it would transform the internet into a “tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users”.
The directive’s critics are particularly concerned that Article 13 – which would compel “online content sharing service providers”, such as social networks or video-sharing sites like YouTube, to take “effective and proportionate” measures to combat the sharing of copyrighted works – would require the implementation of automated copyright checking systems, dubbed “censorship machines” or “upload filters”.
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted this morning 318–278 in favour of rejecting the bill in its current form, with a further plenary session debating its content set for September. “I regret that a majority of MEPs did not support the position which I and the legal affairs committee have been advocating,” says German MEP Axel Voss. But this is part of the democratic process. We will now return to the matter in September for further consideration and attempt to address people’s concerns while bringing our copyright rules up to date with the modern digital environment.”
Robert Ashcroft, chief executive of the UK’s PRS for Music, says lobbying by big tech companies – if you believe UK Music, €31m from Google alone – influenced the outcome of the vote. “It is perhaps unsurprising, considering the unprecedented level of lobbying and the comprehensive campaign of misinformation which has accompanied this vote, that MEPs want more time to consider the proposals,” says Ashcroft.
“The vote showed that many MEPs across the various European political parties understand the importance of fixing the transfer of value and of a well-functioning market for copyright. We appreciate their support and hope that as we move forward to the plenary debate in September, more MEPs will recognise the unique opportunity to secure the EU’s creative industries.
“We will not be discouraged by today’s decision, and will continue to mobilise the support of musicians and music lovers across the world”
“From the outset, our primary focus of this legislation has been concerned with whether or not the internet functions as a fair and efficient marketplace – and currently, for artists and authors, it doesn’t. They want their creative works to be heard, they embrace technology, but they want to be paid fairly. We will continue to fight for what we believe is their freedom and a fair use of their creative works.”
David El Sayegh, the secretary-general of PRS’s French counterpart, Sacem, comments: “This vote is a setback but it is not the end. Sacem remains dedicated to ensuring that creators are recognised and remunerated for the value of their work. We will not be discouraged by today’s decision and will continue to mobilise the support of musicians and music lovers across the world, in the hopes of reaching a fair agreement with these platforms that will safeguard the future of the music industry.
“We are confident that the European Parliament will eventually support a framework that fully acknowledges the rights of creators in the digital landscape of the 21st century.”
BPI, the association of UK record labels and organiser of the Brit Awards, says in a statement: “We respect the decision by MEPs to have a plenary discussion on the draft Copyright Directive. We will work with MEPs over the next weeks to explain how the proposed directive will benefit not just European creativity, but also internet users and the technology sector.”
Gesac (the European Grouping of Societies of Authors and Composers), which represents 31 collection societies, says the defeat marks a “missed opportunity to fix the current unfairness in the digital market once and for all”.
“The EU parliament has recognised that machine censorship of copyrighted material is not an easy and simple fix”
“This vote was never about censorship or freedom of speech. It was only about updating the copyright rules for the 21st century and ensuring that creators get a fair remuneration when their works are used in the digital space,” says Gesac president Anders Lassen. “[U]nfortunately, manipulative campaigns orchestrated by tech giants, based on scaremongering, prevailed on this occasion. We are confident that the European Parliament will finally approve what is right for the future of the EU’s economy, competitiveness and fundamental values against these global forces”.
While PRS and their allies have sought to paint the ‘no’ vote as a temporary stay on the legislation while MEPs consider their options, the directive’s opponents are, unsurprisingly, claiming victory in what privacy campaigner Jim Killock, executive director of Open Rights Group, calls “round one of the robo-copyright wars”.
“The EU parliament has recognised that machine censorship of copyrighted material is not an easy and simple fix. They’ve heard the massive opposition, including internet blackouts and 750,000 people petitioning them against these proposals.
“Everyone across Europe who wants this fixed will have to work hard to make sure that parliament comes up with a sensible way forward by September.”
Meanwhile, Julia Reda, an MEP for Pirate Party Germany, tweeted that anti-Article 13 campaigners’ “protests have worked”:
Great success: Your protests have worked! The European Parliament has sent the copyright law back to the drawing board. All MEPs will get to vote on #uploadfilters and the #linktax September 10–13. Now let's keep up the pressure to make sure we #SaveYourInternet! pic.twitter.com/VwqAgH0Xs5
— Julia Reda (@Senficon) July 5, 2018
The next vote will take place from 10 to 13 September 2018.
This article will be updated.
Music biz, internet on collision course ahead of Article 13 vote
Musicians, songwriters, collection societies and music industry associations are urging European parliamentarians to vote in favour of Article 13 tomorrow, as the gulf widens between supporters and critics who warn the controversial new EU Copyright Directive could “destroy the internet as we know it”.
French collection society/performance rights organisation Sacem today became the latest organisation to come out in favour of the Copyright Directive, saying its Article 13 – which would compel “online content sharing service providers”, such as social networks or video-sharing sites like YouTube, to take “effective and proportionate” measures to combat the sharing of copyrighted works – would end a culture in which digital platforms act as “free riders, pocketing the value of these creative works and failing to pass this value onto its creators”.
“Online content sharing service platforms have become an integral part of the musical ecosystem, acting as the main access point to enjoy and share music. However, these platforms currently benefit from the uploading and sharing of creative works but do not remunerate artists for the value of their work,” says Sacem secretary-general David El Sayegh.
“The value gap this generates is a real threat to the longer term viability of the creative industries worldwide,” he adds.
Sacem’s intervention – which comes the day after the Italian Wikipedia blocked users from viewing any of its pages, in protest at the legislation, which co-founder Jimmy Wales calls “a serious threat to our mission”– serves to illustrate the stark contrast between the rhetoric coming from the music industry and that of tech companies and internet culture more widely.
While artists such as Sir Paul McCartney claim the directive “would address the value gap and help assure a sustainable future for the music ecosystem and its creators”, critics claim Article 13 would transform the internet from an open platform for the sharing of information into “a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users”.
“It isn’t censorship to allow artists the right to choose to be paid for their work”
Writing last month to European Parliament president Antonio Tajani MEP, more than 70 tech luminaries, including Wales and the creator of the world wide web, Tim Berners-Lee, said the proposals present an “imminent threat to the future of this global network [the internet]”.
Of particular concern is the text of Article 13, whose provision for “effective and proportionate” efforts to remove – and prevent the reappearance of – copyrighted content, say opponents, would require the implementation of automated copyright checking systems, dubbed “censorship machines” by critics.
“We support the consideration of measures that would improve the ability for creators to receive fair remuneration for the use of their works online,” reads the letter. “But we cannot support Article 13, which would mandate internet platforms to embed an automated infrastructure for monitoring and censorship deep into their networks.
“For the sake of the internet’s future, we urge you to vote for the deletion of this proposal.”
Internet freedom activists additionally claim Article 13 would effectively ban memes – the internet fads, often in the form of a humorous picture or video overlaid with text, that spread virally across the web – leading creators to repackage popular memes sans copyrighted material, to highlight what they see as the absurdity of the proposed legislation.
However, writing in MBW last week, Crispin Hunt, chair of the British Association of Composers, Songwriters and Authors, accused Article 13’s critics of “relying wholly on an ability to weave a narrative that has no relationship to fact”.
“Article 13 would mandate internet platforms to embed an automated infrastructure for monitoring and censorship”
“The reality is that Article 13 is hardly revolutionary,” says Hunt. “It is a modest proposal that returns some sense of fairness and responsibility to the manner in which internet platforms operate. We have had almost 20 years of experience under the existing regime, where platforms have almost no accountability to the public, and in which they are rewarded for wilful blindness and inaction.”
He concludes by urging European policymakers to “reject the incoherent anti-Article 13 lobbying” for “the sake of European culture, our democratic political institutions and our economic well-being”.
Umbrella body UK Music, meanwhile, yesterday fired an extraordinary broadside at Google for what it calls a “big-money” lobbying campaign aimed at scuppering Article 13 “because it would force the tech giant to pay much higher fees for the music it streams on YouTube”.
“Google has made vast sums of money behaving like a corporate vulture, feeding off the creators and investors who generate the music content shared by hundreds of millions on YouTube,” says chief executive Michael Dugher. “These EU copyright changes are aimed at ending an injustice that has seen Google’s YouTube and other big tech firms ripping off creators for far too long.”
According to UK Music, Google has spent a combined €31m on lobbying to that end, including through two European Parliament industry forums.
“These new figures expose the fact that Google is acting like a monolithic megacorp, trying to submerge the truth under a tsunami of misinformation and scare stories pedalled by its multi-million propaganda machine,” continues Dugher.
“Google has made vast sums of money behaving like a corporate vulture”
“Instead of mounting a cynical campaign, motivated entirely out of its self-interested desire to protect its huge profits, Google should be making a positive contribution to those who create and invest in the music. MEPs should ignore the big money lobbying from big tech and back fair rewards for creators.”
Unsurprisingly, each side accuses the other of peddling falsehoods: in a blog post yesterday, Robert Ashcroft, CEO of PRS for Music, criticised “the internet giants and the consumer organisations they fund” for “whipp[ing] up a social media storm of misinformation about the proposed changes in order to preserve their current advantage”; respected tech site Techdirt hit back by saying the collection society is spreading “intellectually dishonest bullshit”, with the aim of ensuring “every platform will just buy a licence [from PRS] and only allow uploads from artists it represents”.
“It isn’t censorship to allow artists the right to choose to be paid for their work,” counters Geoff Taylor, CEO of the Brit Awards. “The right to an income provides the basic artistic freedom for musicians to be what they have always been: rebels and revolutionaries, entrepreneurs, counter-cultural campaigners, our conscience and our inspiration.
“Memes will continue to flood our Instagram feeds over an internet that won’t break, any more than the last time the tech lobby cried wolf to oppose creators’ rights. Maybe it is time for the tech companies just to say what they mean: ‘We prefer to make billions of dollars out of music and other content without paying the people who make it.’”
MEPs will vote to fairly reward music creators/destroy the internet (delete as appropriate) at 12 noon UK/central European time tomorrow.
Gene Simmons tries to trademark devil’s horns
It’s a hand gesture familiar to metalheads across the world – but if Gene Simmons has his way, the sign of the horns could soon his trademark.
In a new application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the Kiss frontman is seeking to register “a hand gesture with the index and small fingers extended upward and the thumb extended perpendicular” for “entertainment, namely live, performances by a musical artist.”
The would-be trademark is pictured below:
The trademark application, serial number 87482739, was filed on 9 June and accepted on Tuesday. It is expected to be assigned to an examiner within three months of filing.
The application says Simmons (real name Chaim Witz) has been throwing the horns since “at least as early as 14 November 1974” – a date that corresponds with Kiss’s Hotter than Hell tour – although use of the gesture by figures as diverse as John Lennon (on the Yellow Submarine cover), Black Sabbath’s Geezer Butler, Frank Zappa, George Clinton and Gautama Buddha all predate Simmons’s claim (the Buddha’s by quite some time).
Aus promoter fined $500k for unpaid royaltiesaustral
John Denison, the promoter of Australia’s short-lived Soulfest, has been ordered by a Sydney court to pay almost half a million dollars in damages to Australian collection society APRA AMCOS.
Denison, whose now-defunct company Soulfest International Pty Ltd was behind the hip hop, funk and R&B festival, was deemed by the Federal Circuit Court of Australia to have committed “flagrant infringement” of the Copyright Act 1968 and ordered to pay APRA AMCOS (the Australasian Performing Right Association and Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners’ Society) A$437,000 – roughly US$335,957 – in compensatory and additional damages and $70,000 ($53,819) in legal costs.
The ruling brings to an end a protracted case against Denison by APRA AMCOS, which claimed the promoter failed to secure proper live performances licences for Soulfest, Supafest and “other tours and events”.
Richard Mallett, head of revenue at APRA AMCOS, comments: “Judge [Alexander] Street made a number of important comments about the importance of APRA AMCOS, and that the evidence demonstrated that APRA AMCOS was willing to deal with this promoter even with all the difficulties he posed.
“Venues, caterers and artists are able to withhold their services – but songwriters’ work cannot be withheld ‘after the fact'”
“He said that it is to APRA AMCOS’s credit that it made so many genuine attempts to license the events so that it could promote live music while still protecting its membership, and it was pleasing to note he also acknowledged APRA AMCOS’s essential role in promoting live music performances in Australia.”
“We maintain APRA AMCOS’s members are among the most vulnerable service providers when it comes to promoters like this. Venues, caterers and artists are able to withhold their services – but songwriters’ work cannot be withheld ‘after the fact’. Their only recourse is to trust in the courts, and their membership to APRA AMCOS, to protect their rights.”
Denison, who did not appear in court, now promotes tours with his new venture, iLive Entertainment.
Soulfest ran for one year, in 2014, with its planned 2015 event cancelled at the eleventh hour due to poor ticket sales. Urban music festival Supafest took place in 2010, 2011 and 2012, reportedly running up debts of $17m and dogged by allegations of non-payment of performers.
Stairway to Heaven suit forces Plant cancellation
The copyright dispute over Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ has spilt over into the live music world, with former lead singer Robert Plant cancelling his appearance at the Guy Garvey-curated Meltdown festival on 19 June to appear in court.
Plant was due to appear at the Royal Festival Hall in London as part of a benefit show, The Ship We’re In, to raise money for The British Red Cross.
In a statement, a representative for Plant said: “It is with great disappointment that Robert must cancel his appearance.
“Robert has been enthusiastic to help in any way to the increased awareness and support of so many powerless and distraught peoples [and] the opportunity afforded at Guy Garvey’s Meltdown was an event that Robert was passionately drawn to.”
Led Zeppelin are being sued by Michael Skidmore, a trustee for Spirit founder Randy California, which alleges that the opening bars to ‘Stairway to Heaven’ plagiarise Spirit’s song ‘Taurus’
Plant is also booked to appear at a number of other festivals, including Rock Werchter, NOS Alive, Rock Oz’Arènes and Wilderness, this summer. It is not yet know whether his other festival dates will be affected.
Led Zeppelin are currently being sued by Michael Skidmore, a trustee for Spirit founder Randy California, which alleges that the opening bars to ‘Stairway to Heaven’ plagiarise Spirit’s song ‘Taurus’. In 1996, shortly before his death, California, wrote: “People always ask me why ‘Stairway to Heaven’ sounds exactly like ‘Taurus’, which was released two years earlier. I know Led Zeppelin also played ‘Fresh Garbage’ in their live set. They opened up for us on their first American tour.”
Judge for yourself: