Belgian Presidency puts remuneration back on the agenda

On Monday 8th and Tuesday 9th of April representatives from all corners of the copyright-driven sectors gathered in Namur (Belgium) for the Belgian Copyright Conference that focused on: “The Action of the EU and its Member States in Favor of Fair Remuneration for Authors, Performers and Creative Industries in the Digital Content Landscape”. AEPO-ARTIS was present with a large delegation and made use of the occasion to set up an in-person expert group.

The first day started off with a statement by Paul Laurent, representing the Belgian ministry of Economy, hoping that participants “would leave the conference with the conviction that now is the time to revise the DSM Directive and that the TDM exceptions are not adequate to the real world”.

Roberto Viola, Director General of DG Connect, followed the tone set by stating that the ultimate goal of the CDSM directive is to remunerate those who create and even called not remunerating artists to be “a crime against humanity”. On AI he was clear that facilitating the opt-out option needs to be combined with stimulating licensing. If not, “everybody loses”.

A particularly remarkable intervention during the morning was the one by Professor Frank Gotzen, President of ALAI, who delved into the possibilities and obligations that come with article 18 of the directive. He elaborated on the recent and more established remuneration rights that exist in the EU for online exploitations, concluding they were all permissible under article 18. This also applies to remuneration rights connected to article 17 which he considered not to be a closed system.

The conference continued with an intervention from Iban Garcia Del Blanco who presented the recent EP report on “Cultural diversity and the conditions for artists in the European music streaming market” followed by some national reports on Germany, Spain and of course Belgium itself and a panel on creator’s remuneration in the context of music and audiovisual streaming to which AEPO-ARTIS’ General Secretary participated together with IFPI, GESAC, SAA, Spotify and the MPA.

While the MPA spoke strongly against collectively managed remuneration rights, claiming the EU had taken an outspoken political choice for collective bargaining, IFPI tried to waive away the importance of remuneration rights in the light of the bigger threat called AI. AEPO-ARTIS and the SAA responded by debunking the unfounded arguments in stereo and called upon the Commission to take the assessment seriously. “This directive has completely outsourced the task of guaranteeing fair remuneration to the member states and most of them have failed to fulfil this task.” said Ioan Kaes, adding that “The industry has been promising for several years now that they will solve it, if we would just let them. However, every solution that has come forth from them is one that benefits producers more than it does performers and has been introduced in complete absence of collaboration with those same performers.”

At the second day, the focus was completely shifted towards AI and buy-out practices with presentations by the Commission, SABAM, Stéphanie Le Cam and the Copyright Infrastructure Task Force. However, the most eye-catching intervention however came from the Association of Commercial Televisions (ACT) who tried the limit the absolute character of buy-out contract by referring to the unwaivable nature of the rental right(!).

Main takeaways from the conference are that fair remuneration will continue to be part of the discussions under the new Commission and that these discussions will be animated. The many views on how to best guarantee fair remuneration are very divergent and there seems to be a growing enthusiasm to start the discussions on a single European Copyright Act.

Photos by Jeroen Vranckaert