I had the pleasure of being invited to take part in a panel discussion at a conference run by the EU Observer, called Online Content and Creative Rights. The discussion was entitled ‘Get paid when you get played’ and I shared the platform with Liberal MEP Cecilia Wilkström, Jörg Evers, Chairperson of GEMA, and Jean-Eric De Cockborne from the European Commission. The debate focused on what we as legislators could do to tackle this important and difficult issue while Mr. Evers provided an industry perspective.
It was an enlightening debate, one that brought in to sharp relief the complex nature of the problem. The Reflections paper released by the European Commission has suggested that there be a single European Market for copyright, with big international collecting societies providing a “one stop shop” for everyone – from i-Tunes to BBC Radio 1 – wishing to purchase a license to play or distribute music. This sounds like a perfectly sensible and workable idea, especially when you think about the current situation where rights to music have to be negotiated on a country by country basis, meaning that some music available in one country won’t be available in another. This can encourage piracy, since if a song is not available legally in a particular country then some would simply look for an alternative, most likely illegal, source on the internet.
But this single market idea does have a lot of problems, especially when you consider cultural diversity, something that the European Parliament is very keen to protect. Artists and creators from smaller member states or more niche markets might get lost or forgotten in a huge, pan-European system. So already a difficult question and we haven’t even started talking properly about piracy yet. Needless to say when we were asked questions by the floor, a great many forthright views were expressed. It was very useful for me and my fellow legislators to see the strength and diversity of feeling on these issues.
The Labour Government is introducing some very good legislation at the moment which is going to tackle this issue head on, punishing those who download and upload content illegally. I hope that we can be as constructive at the European level. This is one of the big issues in the Culture and Education Committee, and as the Coordinator for the S&D group, I will be working with my colleagues to make sure we find the right solution. The internet has meant that the old way of doing things for collecting societies and the record industry is now quickly becoming obsolete, so it is up to them as well as us here in the Parliament to find solutions. It is time for us all to get creative with creative rights.
I did an interview for the EU Observer website afterwards which you can find here, along with a number of other interviews from people speaking at the conference.