ArtsWatch: New Rules For European Royalties

Proposed EU directive would impose minimum quality standards on collection societies
July 16, 2012 -- 7:17 am PDT
By Philip Merrill / GRAMMY.com

In recent news ...

On July 11 the European Commission proposed language for a new directive to regulate songwriters' royalty collection societies, combining minimum quality standards for their business operations, with specific procedures to encourage online licensing across multiple European territories. European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services Michel Barnier said, "More efficient collecting societies would make it easier for service providers to roll out new services available across borders — something that serves both European consumers and cultural diversity. More generally, all collecting societies should ensure that creators are rewarded more quickly for their work and must operate with full transparency." Members of Pink Floyd, Radiohead and advocacy group Younison expressed disappointment that the proposal did not address the present backlog of revenues that have not yet been distributed. British collection society PRS for Music said, "The commission has outlined a new framework for consistent and high standards ... that we welcome as the route to building further confidence in collective management."

European Parliament rejected the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement on July 4, with 478 members voting against the agreement, 39 in favor and 165 abstaining. A coalition of organizations representing intellectual property creators expressed their disappointment. Although the U.S.-led agreement must now proceed without European participation, last month an EU commissioner suggested that the EC might someday resubmit ACTA to Parliament after receiving a judicial finding that it is not in violation of European human rights.

Independence Day observances this year included alternative Internet freedom petitions. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) supported the "Declaration of Internet Freedom," which garnered widespread support from consumer advocates and resembled the digital Bill of Rights Issa proposed last month. Website conglomerate BuzzFeed reported that aides to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) declared the legislators' support for a libertarian alternative called "The Technology Revolution — A Campaign for Liberty Manifesto." On July 6 countries belonging to the United Nations' Human Rights Council, as well as other nations, adopted a resolution that "recognizes the global and open nature of the Internet" and "calls upon all states to promote and facilitate access to the Internet."

A July 10 markup in the House Judiciary Committee of draft legislation titled the "Intellectual Property Attaché Act" did not result in a vote on the bill, which has yet to be introduced. TechDirt coverage was followed by swift complaints from consumer advocates Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge accusing Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) of trying to sneak in a piece of his blocked bill, the Stop Online Piracy Act, H.R. 3261. SOPA foe Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) went on record that he was not opposed to the attaché legislation, but for the time being it seems that this bill has retreated back into its metaphorical burrow.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced the submission of a new provision to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement on July 3, supporting greater international specificity for the balanced copyright approach of limitations and exceptions, including those enshrined in U.S. law such as the fair use defense. In a USTR blog, Kirk wrote, "For the first time in any U.S. trade agreement, the United States is proposing a new provision, consistent with the internationally recognized '3-step test,' that will obligate parties to seek to achieve an appropriate balance in their copyright systems in providing copyright exceptions and limitations for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research." Consumer advocates Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge argued that the disclosure was inadequate, and Public Knowledge Senior Vice President Harold Feld wrote an ArsTechnica op-ed conceding that this is a "big deal" but claiming, "MPAA/RIAA have definitely lost a major round here." That advocacy-motivated spin mischaracterizes the best interests of copyright owners and an argument can equally be made that this is a win-win for everyone.

On July 6 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down part of the statute creating the Copyright Royalty Board as an unconstitutional violation of the Appointments Clause. Essentially, the power to hire and fire have to go to the same government official — the Librarian of Congress had the power to hire and now also has the power to fire. Appellant nonprofit Intercollegiate Broadcasting System could potentially seek another appeal focused on the merits of the actual rates. But as attorney David Oxenford said, "Going forward, it seems like the board can function as it has."

Television broadcasters won one and lost one in preliminary rounds of separate cases before the Southern District of New York's U.S. District Court. On July 9 Dish Network lost its New York motion for a declaratory ruling that its ad-skipping Hopper feature did not violate broadcasters' copyrights, and must now defend Hopper against broadcasters' lawsuits in the Central District of California (previous ArtsWatch coverage). On July 11 broadcasters lost their motion for a preliminary injunction against Aereo, the antenna-based technology that allows Internet viewing of consumer-recorded broadcasts (previous ArtsWatch coverage). The broadcasters announced they will appeal the ruling.

Following Google's similar move last month, on July 2 Twitter released its first Transparency Report that tracks copyright infringement takedown notices. Twitter complied with 38 percent of the 3,378 notices it received in the first half of 2012, taking down 5,275 tweets.

The Recording Academy actively represents the music community on such issues as intellectual property rights, music piracy, archiving and preservation, and censorship concerns. In pursuing its commitment to addressing these and other issues, The Recording Academy undertakes a variety of national initiatives. ArtsWatch is a key part of an agenda aimed at raising public awareness of and support for the rights of artists. To become more involved, visit Advocacy Action @ GRAMMY.com and sign up for Advocacy Action E-lerts.

Click on the "ArtsWatch" tag for links to other GRAMMY News stories in this series.

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