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Aussie live industry: new festival legislation ‘unworkable’

A group of Australian industry organisations has penned an open letter to New South Wales (NSW) premier Gladys Berejiklian over the re-introduction of controversial festival licensing laws which were scrapped just a few weeks ago.

The Australian Festival Association, APRA AMCOS, Music NSW and Live Music Office signed the letter, which accuses politicians of a “total lack of respect for the live music industry” and demands a roundtable meeting to discuss “regulation and safety at music festivals”.

Under the newly drafted Music Festivals Bill 2019, it is an offence for any festival deemed ‘high risk’ by the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) to take place without drawing up a safety management plan for approval first. Failure to do so is punishable by a twelve-month prison sentence.

The proposed legislation was drawn up following the rejection of previous licensing laws by the NSW Legislative Council. At the time, the Australian Labor Party stated they would not support any legislation which included a listing of ‘extreme risk’ festivals.

“Labor, the Greens and the Shooters took away these regulations and left nothing in their place. This legislation will rectify that,” comments Berejiklian. “The situation is clear – music festivals identified as high risk under the former licensing system will continue to be high risk under this law.”

“Without serious consultation with our industry this proposed legislation will not work and we do not support it”

In response to Berejiklian’s decision, the collection of industry associations writes: “As you are aware, the live music industry has repeatedly expressed our strong desire to work collaboratively with your government on our shared commitment to safer music festivals.

“The draft bill tabled yesterday is unworkable. The industry was not consulted on the design of this draft legislation. In its current form, it appears to be based on the regulations disallowed by the NSW Upper House which were unworkable for all the reasons outlined by industry. Without serious consultation with our industry this proposed legislation will not work and we do not support it.

“Setting aside the total lack of respect for the live music industry which is the largest contributor by far to NSW live revenue and attendance,” continues the letter, “this draft bill also delivers huge uncertainty for all music festival operators and concert promoters in the lead up to the summer touring season.

“We believe it is imperative that you immediately convene an industry roundtable to develop a workable framework that supports our shared objectives.”

Berejiklian first implemented the regulations in February this year. The laws, which responded to several drug-related deaths at festivals in the region, have proved a point of contention between the live industry, opposition politicians and the government ever since.

On Wednesday (16 October), Berejiklian reiterated her opposition to pill testing at festivals, following a leaked report in which the deputy state coroner recommended the practice.

 


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US reps reintroduce pro-transparency Boss Act

On the back of Tuesday’s Federal Trade Commission workshop, three US politicians have reintroduced the dormant Boss Act bill in an attempt to provide “transparency and regulation to the badly corrupted primary and second live events ticket marketplace”.

The Boss Act (Better Oversight of Secondary Sales and Accountability in Concert Ticketing) – a sister bill to the ultimately successful Better Online Ticket Sales (Bots) Act, which proscribes the use of ticket bots across the US – was first introduced in 2009 amid controversy over holdbacks for Bruce ‘the Boss’ Springsteen’s Working on a Dream tour. It was reintroduced in 2016 but failed find to the support to become law.

Its provisions include forcing primary sellers to disclose how many tickets will be offered for sale and make clear any fees up front – while also prohibiting promoters and ticketing companies from restricting where buyers can resell their tickets.

The US representative for the ninth district of New Jersey, Bill Pascrell Jnr – who yesterday introduced the Boss Act 2019 alonsgide fellow representatives Frank Pallone Jnr and Richard Blumenthal – comments: “Even though it’s 2019, the $9 billion live events ticket market resembles the Wild West: bereft of regulation and order, with bad actors around too many corners making a living by ripping people off. The Boss Act would finally impose hard regulation and transparency to the ticket market so that fans can find affordable tickets and enjoy some live entertainment in these uneasy times without fear of being taken to the cleaners.

“Americans have been gouged and gouged and then gouged some more”

“Americans have been gouged and gouged and then gouged some more. Ticket buyers don’t know how many tickets are going on sale or how many are being held back, can’t see what fees will be tacked on, and sometimes don’t even know if the tickets they are purchasing exist yet. For too long on these issues, our government has failed to hear the ghost of Tom Joad [a Springsteen song], the common man and woman. It’s high time government stands up for him and for them.”

Supporting Pascrell (pictured) and co’s efforts is the National Consumers League (NCL), whose executive director, Sally Greenberg, adds: “Anyone who has tried to buy a ticket recently knows that the ticketing marketplace is rigged against us. Fans are forced to navigate a maze of hidden fees, rampant ticket holdbacks that create artificial ‘sell-outs’ and illegal ticket-buying bots that cut in line to hoard the best seats before fans even have a chance to buy them.

“Congressman Pascrell’s Boss Act is the fix the broken ticket market needs. The bill will bring much-needed transparency to an opaque ticket-buying process and put consumers in control of their tickets. NCL applauds Congressman Pascrell’s leadership on this issue and looks forward to seeing this critical consumer protection measure signed into law.”

The text of the updated Boss Act 2019 can be read in full here.

 


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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”.

Music biz, internet on collision course ahead of Article 13 vote

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”:

The next vote will take place from 10 to 13 September 2018.

This article will be updated.

 


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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.

 


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New UK secondary ticketing regs come into force

New rules that require all ticket resellers in the UK to provide buyers with a unique ticket number (UTN), along with other information such as the ticket’s face value, come into force today (6 April).

The new regulations, announced in February, are described by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy as a way to “better protect fans from rip-off prices” on secondary sites.

From today, ticket resellers must:

Consumer Minister Andrew Griffiths (pictured) says:“Fans have a right to know exactly what they’re signing up to on ticket resale websites, but all too often people are left feeling ripped off when the ticket doesn’t match expectations.

“We are already taking steps to crack down on touts using ‘bots’ to bulk buy tickets for resale and today’s new rules will also improve transparency in this market.”

“So-called secondary ticketing sites should now have complete clarity of their legal obligations,” Adam Webb, campaign manager for anti-touting campaign group FanFair Alliance. “Combined with enforcement action, these welcome updates and additions to consumer law will result in greater protection for audiences and help development of a more transparent and fan-friendly ticket resale market.”

 


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Spanish secondary ticketers’ association calls for regulation

The National Ticketing Association, a newly established body representing the secondary ticketing sector in Spain, has said the resale of tickets is a “positive” thing for those who can no longer attend – but that it must be regulated to protect consumers.

The association, known in Spanish as the Asociación Nacional de Ticketing (Anatic), was set up in February by representatives of three Spanish secondary platforms: María Requena of Monoticket, Miguel Jiménez of Eventradas (Oferta y Gestión de Ocio) and Marcos Fernández of Event Factory. Similar to the UK’s Association of Secondary Ticket Agents (ASTA) and the US’s National Association of Ticket Brokers (NATB), Anatic seeks the professionalisation of the industry and to weed out fradulent resellers, who they blame for creating negative “public opinion” of the resale market.

According to Requena, the current lack of regulation in Spain has created an environment where ticket fraud is “difficult to identify” and where resold tickets often have no guarantee. She tells Europa Press that there are, however, companies (including, presumably, her own) that guarantee the legitimacy of the ticket.

“Future legislation” around ticket resale is an “opportunity” to create a level playing field for all ticket sellers

“Future legislation” around ticket resale, Requena suggests, is therefore an “opportunity” to create a level playing field for all ticket agents and ensure fair competition. “We want to ensure this important sector becomes part of the public consciousness and […] is able to demonstrate its worth.”

Spanish culture minister Íñigo Méndez de Vigo pledged in March 2017 to “regulate” the online ticket resale market, although he ruled out an outright ban, saying it would be like “putting doors on a field” (“ponerle puertas al campo”) – ie impossible.

A recent survey by Ticketea revealed nearly three quarters of resold tickets in Spain are touted for profit.

 


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Dutch culture ministry to investigate ticket touting

Ingrid van Engelshoven, the Netherlands’ minister for education, culture and science, has announced a review of the secondary ticketing market to see if legislation is needed to prevent ticket fraud and the harvesting of large volumes of tickets for resale.

The intervention by van Engelshoven follows a parliamentary question on 1 February by MP Peter Kwint, who asked whether the minister saw anything suspicious in U2 tickets selling out in a few minutes and then immediately appearing on resale site Seatwave. “Can you guarantee that Live Nation, or one of its subsidiaries, does not place tickets directly on secondary ticketing websites such as Seatwave?” he asked van Engelshoven.

“If not, are you prepared to investigate how these tickets are available on this site within a few minutes?”

Van Engelshoven (pictured) responded on 15 March in a letter to the House of Representatives, saying that while “at this stage, it’s too early to draw any conclusions”, she intends to discuss the issue with industry stakeholders in the coming months to establish whether any new legislation is necessary.

“Ae you prepared to investigate how these tickets are available on this site within a few minutes?”

Those stakeholders include Ticketmaster Netherlands, promoter Mojo Concerts, Music Managers Forum NL, promoters’ association VNPF and venues association VVEM. She adds she has already consulted with Eurosonic Noorderslag, competition authority ACM and online marketplaces eBay and Markplaats.

“It is important to get a good picture of the opportunities that are available to address any problems, and if there are any gaps,” she writes. The answer, she adds, could be a technological solution, naming Youp van het Hek and Jochem Meijer as artists who are already using blockchain technology to prevent the resale of their tickets.

“The number of parties that have to deal with this issue is large, and the interests are diverse,” Van Engelshoven concludes, and it “takes time to conduct further discussions and to draw up a thorough analysis. I therefore expect to be able to send a response to the House in the autumn of 2018.”

The ACM dropped its own investigation into the ticket resale market in June 2016, concluding the regular public outcries over sold-out shows are are a consequence of simple supply and demand, or “scarcity and popularity”.

 


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Entertainment ticket tax proposed in MI

Lawmakers in Detroit are mulling the introduction of a US$3 tax on concert tickets as a way to fund the city’s cash-strapped emergency services.

The proposed law, dubbed Senate Bill 884, would levy a $3-per-ticket tax on all entertainment events at venues with at least 5,000 seats in Michigan cities with a population of at least half a million (of which only Detroit would qualify). The revenue raised, says the bill’s sponsor, state senator Coleman Young II, would be equally distributed between the city’s police force, its fire brigade and its emergency medical services.

“This is not a tax for revenue raising purposes,” says Young. “I’m levying it so police officers, firefighters and emergency personnel can provide their services at an optimal rate.”

However, according to local paper Detroit Free Press, the bill is unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled Senate and House of Representatives – especially at a time when Republican president Donald Trump is slashing taxes on a national level.

Photo: © Coreyfein01 / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

 


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Ireland ‘set to outlaw for-profit ticket resale’

The government of the Republic of Ireland is reportedly set to give its backing to legislation outlawing the resale of tickets above face value.

MPs Noel Rock and Stephen Donnelly are to meet with officials from the department of business this week, following the end of a review of the Irish ticketing sector, the Examiner reports, with government expected to give its backing to anti-ticket touting legislation. Rock and Donnelly introduced the Prohibition of Above-Cost Ticket Touting Bill in January 2017, sparking a public consultation on secondary ticketing.

The consultation, which wrapped up last May, garnered responses from promoter Aiken Promotions; consumer groups ECC Ireland and the Consumers’ Association of Ireland; sports governing bodies GAA, FAI and IRFU; primary ticket agencies Ticketmaster Ireland and Tickets.ie; and several secondary sites, including StubHub, Seatwave and Viagogo. Both the primary and secondary ticket agencies that responded were opposed to further regulation.

Now, according to the Irish Examiner, Donnelly (pictured) and Rock will jointly present a private members’ bill that would outlaw the above-face value reselling of tickets, which will then be accepted by the Irish government.

“This will change mindsets,” Donnelly tells the paper. “Anyone trying to sell at an inflated price will be breaking the law. It will be a culture change.”

 


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Corporates face ticket price rise after Trump axes deduction

The days of American businesses hiring boxes for clients at concerts and other live events could be coming to a close, after a recent tax overhaul eliminated a 50% deduction for entertainment-related business expenses.

The headline figures from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, signed into law on 22 December, include reduced rates of income tax (until 2025) and corporation tax (permanently), predicted by Trump to deliver a surging economy and thousands of new jobs.

However, the new legislation also eliminates a 50% deduction for business expenses for “entertainment, amusement or recreation”, meaning firms will see a doubling of their costs for concert tickets and hospitality for clients.

Eliminating the deduction “is really going to hurt the small businesses that need to promote their business by entertaining clients”, Charles Capetanakis, a lawyer at New York legal firm Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, tells Bloomberg Politics.

The loss of the entertainment expenses is “painful”, adds Washington, DC, lobbyist Ryan Ellis, although he notes with relief a 50% tax break for client meals was left untouched by the Tax Cuts Act.

 


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