U.K. music-industry chiefs gathered today (July 12) to unveil a proposal for a new digital-age copyright framework, which they hope the government will incorporate into a revised intellectual property

U.K. music-industry chiefs gathered today (July 12) to unveil a proposal for a new digital-age copyright framework, which they hope the government will incorporate into a revised intellectual property law.

Called the Value Recognition Right, the new concept aims to create a new commercial relationship with 21st-century distributors by licensing any digital service that earns income from distributing music to consumers.

The new right aims to fill a gap in current European and British copyright laws. On the one hand, unauthorized file-sharing networks and consumers infringe copyright by failing to pay rights owners for the use of their music. Yet, there were legitimate distribution businesses, including Internet service providers, mobile phone operators and hardware manufacturers, which were benefiting financially from those very illegal activities.

"We were increasingly disenchanted with the paucity of appropriate remedies for the new burgeoning use of music," Alison Wenham, chairman/CEO of the U.K.'s Assn. of Independent Music, told Billboard.biz.

"We currently have something approaching a flint and an axe to try and make copyright work for us; but we are at a point where we feel that a different approach would serve us better. The Value Recognition Right does not pre-suppose that value can be applied universally and is therefore more flexible (for the different digital platforms)."

The premise of the Value Recognition Right comes after industry-wide discussions among the indie record industry, composers, songwriters, musicians, performers, talent managers, publishers and collecting societies.

At a roundtable discussion hosted today by British think tank Smith Institute at the London-based Copyright House, representatives from across the music business discussed the need for a new copyright framework.

Existing European Union directives on copyright and e-commerce, plus a 1980s precedent decision on recording equipment in the United Kingdom, prevented the industry from getting paid for the digital distribution of artists' creations.

The new proposed Value Recognition Right offers a possible solution by finding a way of licensing today's digital distributors.

"Current legislation doesn't work for consumers," offered Jazz Summers, chairman of the Music Managers Forum and co-founder of Big Life Management, during a conference following the discussion. "This is a marketplace where there are many players that don't have a structure. This a problem that goes right through the value chain."

Andy Heath, managing director of indie label 4AD Music, and a director on the British Music Rights board, added: "ISPs, for example, rely on that fact that it is the need to transfer content that makes consumers subscribe to their services. But there is no compensation to the content owner."

The next move is for the results of the discussion to be incorporated into presentations to the government during the next few weeks. The information will be refined and packaged as a legislative proposal to be submitted to the government's Gowers Review.

The Gowers Review is an independent re-examination of the U.K.'s intellectual property legislation. It is conducted by Richard Gowers, a former Financial Times editor. He is scheduled to submit his findings to the government this December.

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