Creators must speak out before copyright and authors’ rights are turned completely upside down

Last Friday I attended the very interesting Creators’ Conference (well done on organising that, ECSA).  There were lots of very important points raised and I’m looking forward to ECSA posting those on the event’s website soon (Emmanuel Legrand’s blog already has a few).  In the meantime I thought I’d pick up on a few very relevant comments.

The whole event put the people at the heart of all sorts of music (be it film soundtracks, pop songs, or TV themes) at the centre of the debate.  As Jean Bergevin of the European Commission’s IPR enforcement unit rightly highlighted, so often the debate gets polarised around the arguments of civil society interest groups and that of the more high profile parts of the music and film industries.  This happens to such an extent that the songwriter/composer or in SAA’s case the screenwriter or directors’ interests get lost.  Alternatively of course the big name creators are targeted as examples of how the sector doesn’t work – no-one feels bad for Paul McCartney.

Why aren’t creators vocal in the copyright debate?  Maybe they have other, arguably bigger, problems.  It seems that, as in the audiovisual sector, composers and songwriters face increasing problems in terms of their contract negotiating power.  If authors and creators are still trying to get a fair deal out of the legal market why would they focus on the illegal market?

The debate around ACTA/SOPA/PIPA was used as another example of the creators’ voices not being heard and note was taken in the conference that creators just don’t feel that they can speak out for fear of alienating their fans or facing criticism.  However it is exactly these creators that need to speak out.  Copyright is being turned on its head.  The creator of a work should be able to choose to lock it away in a cupboard if he/she so wishes.  While we could question business models, the use of copyrighted works was always an opt-in system.  An author granted the right for his work to be made available.  With the advance of the internet, the advent of take down notices and the arguments of what Robert Levine called “Free Riders” –the use of copyrighted works is becoming opt-out. Content is freely available by default unless the author requests for it to be taken down.  As Rick Carnes said, “Authors’ rights with no real remedy are not really rights at all”.  It will be interesting to see what the Commission proposes on Notice and action procedures.

All creators are for freedom of speech, and are against censorship.  They want the freedom to create their works and convey their messages. As Robert Levine said – giving a critique of a work is free speech.  Making copies of the work available for free is not. Authors need to be able to enforce their rights.  Copyright is not the problem it is made out to be but the longer it takes business models to catch up with online opportunities, the more time the new gatekeeper monopolies have to push Europe’s creators’ rights (and remuneration) down.

JT

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