This is a overview of the key points made in the FAC and MMF joint submission to the UK Government’s Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth (March 2011).
The digitisation of music has significantly changed the role of the artist in the marketplace. The means of distribution, once the sole preserve of the record companies, are now at our disposal.
However, the artist that wishes to make a living selling their own work from a self-administered website is often prevented from doing so by contracts which in their form and content fail to reflect the changes that digitization has brought.
As a result, many artists now find themselves on both sides of the issue that is currently challenging the way the record industry does business: how do we protect copyright while at the same time allowing creative exploitation of copyrighted material in a manner which benefits artist, label, publisher and consumer?
The Featured Artists Coalition (FAC) and the Music Managers Forum (MMF) have been working together on this for some time and have come up with the following suggestions:
1. We believe that the first step towards monetising unauthorized consumer activity is to convince consumers that the money they spend will end up in the pockets of the artists they love. Giving artists the right to act as retailers of their own material, the rights to which are owned by their former and current record labels, should help them to retain 50% of receipts and, in turn, produce greater returns for the labels on material that they may no longer be promoting.
2. We want a new system of collective licensing that encourages greater commercial use of our work. At present, a start-up digital service would need more than 20 licenses to roll out across the EU. Such collective licensing would assist both artist and consumer by allowing, amongst other models, music subscription services to be bundled into domestic broadband/telecom packages.
3. We believe that artists should have the right to know the details under which their work is being exploited. Many deals between the people who own our copyrights and internet services wishing to exploit them are covered by non-disclosure agreements. Artists have no way of knowing if they have received any royalties that have accrued from such a deal. Record companies, publishers and collection societies have a fiduciary duty to inform artists on what basis they are being paid.
4. We would like to see all transfer of copyright to be by license only with assignment being outlawed as it is in Germany and that any transfer of copyright should be limited to 35 years as it is in the USA, ensuring that copyright is transferred to the creator at least once during copyright term. Copyrights not being exploited should be returned to the creator.
5. As artists, we need changes in contract law to correct the current imbalance of power in a record industry that are still largely shaped by the business practices of the analog era. We believe that by working with the industry to bring new and preexisting contracts into the digital age, we can offer the consumer the kind of products that they want whilst at the same time making the case for fair remuneration.