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The Waiting Game March 16, 2009

Posted by Dominic in Uncategorized.
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Sitting in on the vote in the Parliamentary Committee last month was like watching a game without knowing the rules. Now I don’t know what the game is, except it involves waiting.

The European Parliament has voted in committee and will vote in plenary next month. In between, the action moves to the Council of Ministers, where officials from the Member States meet in a working group of technocrats. All this activity takes place below the surface. The meetings are closed and no proceedings are published. Snippets of information may emerge but it is impossible to know precisely what is being discussed.

Will the Council reach agreement on the Copyright Term Directive? Will their version of the legislation match the text voted by the Parliamentary Committee? If not, will the two bodies be able to negotiate a compromise version between them? These are all burning questions, affecting thousands of musicians. If anyone sees any white smoke rising from the inner chambers in Brussels, give me a shout.


It Wasn’t Right At The Time… February 18, 2009

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The reaction to last Thursday’s vote has been interesting. It has received a warm welcome from most quarters, but there are still some harking back to the 2006 Gowers Report. This, they say, proves there is no economic benefit to extending copyright term for the performers and producers. Well, it certainly says that, but does it prove it?

Gowers puts great faith in an economic study he commissioned from an academic at Cambridge University. This is a long document, including a number of dazzling economic formulae (one of which contains an error which renders the result meaningless). Stripping back the commentary, the study is based on a monopoly model, thereby assuming that artists and record companies have monopoly powers when negotiating with retailers. Try telling that to anyone, including a major label, negotiating a deal with Tesco, or iTunes, or HMV. The reality is that the music industry operates on a bargaining model. It’s a take-it-or-leave-it situation and, because we are so successful in producing records, both in quality and quantity, the retailer tends to have the upper hand. That’s why consumers pay the same for out-of-copyright recordings as they do for those in copyright. It is market forces at work.

But the biggest gap in Gowers’ analysis of the impact of copyright term was the position of performers. He ignored the fact that performers value the royalties they get from their recordings, however big or small. MEPs in Brussels have recognised that and have voted to give musicians their due.