New Business Models Proposed In Debate On EU Culture And Copyright 09/06/2010 by David Cronin for Intellectual Property Watch 4 Comments Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)BRUSSELS – Small fees for internet users could be used to pay musicians and other artists for the dissemination of copyright-protected work online, a Brussels conference has been told. Following complaints that intellectual property rules are generally ill-suited to a world where digital downloading is becoming increasingly common, Green Party Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) hosted a discussion on 8 June about how easy public access to culture can be guaranteed in a way that ensures artists can make a decent living. Philippe Aigrain, a founder of the French civil liberties group La Quadrature du Net, argued that the fundamental premise of any approach to charging for listening to music or watching films online should be that sharing files is a basic right. He took issue with major companies in the entertainment industry who have waged a long campaign against many forms of downloading. “Some big interest groups think the right to share is the root of all evil,” he said. Aigrain recommended a new system whereby each internet subscriber would be charged a monthly fee of 5 to 7 euros and that this would generate a fund for paying artists whose work is shared on the internet. According to his calculations, such fees should yield between 1.2 billion and 1.7 billion euros each year in France alone – about one twentieth of the country’s “cultural economy”. The income would then be distributed among artists based on surveys of a “huge panel” of individuals, who would anonymously give details of which files they had downloaded. For audiovisual work, one-third of the revenue generated would be used for remuneration and the remainder to support new productions. Yet the ratio should be reversed for music, considering that it is usually less expensive to record tunes than to make films, he added. Another suggestion put forward was of a “micro-donations” scheme. Peter Sunde, a spokesman for the file-sharing initiative Pirate Bay, spoke of a new project called Flattr (its name is intended as a play on the words “flatter” and “flat-rate”). Under it, an internet user would give between 2 and 100 euros per month and could then nominate works that they wish to reward or “flattr”. The system would be similar to the “I like” button on the social networking website Facebook but “with the added value that you actually care,” Sunde said. Ofelia Tejerina from the Spanish group Asociación de Internautas said that the situation where a few major companies heavily influenced copyright policies was no longer tenable. “Copyright may have to disappear in some areas,” she said. “In other areas, it has to evolve. It has to be managed by user organisations. We can’t have mafia-like organisations and big conglomerates managing user rights. In Spain, we have proof of criminal activities and corruption [by such firms].” In much of Europe, societies representing the entertainment industry have until now been tasked with collecting royalties for artists. These societies have engaged in such practises as monitoring restaurants and bars that play recorded music as a strict reading of laws would require that royalties be paid to songwriters or composers in such cases. Volker Grassmuck, a media sociologist who has worked for universities in Berlin, Tokyo and Sao Paolo, said: “’Mafia’ is a widely used epithet for music collecting societies in many countries. The arcane area of collecting societies draws much public interest and anger.” Grassmuck laid out detailed views on funding alternatives in the Intellectual Property Watch Inside Views column last year (IPW, Inside Views, 11 May 2009). Citing estimates that half of the populations in many countries engage in file-sharing, he said that “like photocopying, it is here to stay.” Nonetheless, there is a willingness of internet users to pay for certain services. This was illustrated, he said, by how the reference website Wikipedia had raised 8 million dollars from 230,000 people during its most recent fundraising drive. He also referred to surveys by Hertfordshire University in Britain during 2008 and last year, that found that 80 percent to 85 percent of respondents expressed an interest in paying for a service “where you can download and keep music.” But Cécile Despringre, director of the Society of Audiovisual Authors, a group representing the film industry, defended the role of collecting societies. The “collective management” of copyright is “still the best system for rewarding creation,” she claimed. “There is a need for improvement,” she added. “And it is important that we have a direct analysis of how this can be done. Film-making shouldn’t directly apply the system used in music. But there is no point in expecting right-holders to give up on their rights.” Maja Bogataj Jancic from the Institute of Intellectual Property in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana spoke of how “copyright is at war with technology.” “Digital technology is the greatest threat to the copyright system but it is fair to say it is also the greatest opportunity for creation,” she said. The “Creative Commons” system – through which authors and artists can grant others permission to circulate their work on a non-commercial basis – has made the sharing of published material easier, she added. Some 350 million creative commons licenses had been issued worldwide by the end of last year. “Creative Commons licenses are built on top of copyright law,” she explained. “They do not exist without copyright law.” Austrian MEP Eva Lichtenberger contended that “culture and creative activity need to be supported in such a way that artists can have a dignified livelihood.” She used colourful language to describe how the entertainment industry has kept a close watch on the European Union’s debates on intellectual property. “When we look at copyright and the reform of copyright so that it can be adapted to the twenty-first century, there is a veritable lobbying war going on. Lobbyists even follow you to the ladies’ room in order to continue discussions you have been having.” Her French colleague Karima Delli noted that 1.6 billion people worldwide have the means to copy files. “This is the very basis for a shared culture; the internet should be the means by which we democratise culture,” she said. “There is no magic solution. We are going to have to try out new economic models to fight against the concentration of powers in many commercial systems applying to cinema and books, etcetera.” Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related David Cronin may be reached at email@example.com."New Business Models Proposed In Debate On EU Culture And Copyright" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.