Songwriters and composers warned Thursday (Feb. 23) that they could find their creativity stifled by multinational monopolies if the European Union agreed to reforms on authors' rights.

Songwriters and composers have warned that they could find their creativity stifled by multinational monopolies if the European Union agreed to reforms on authors' rights.

At a meeting on Tuesday (Feb. 21) in Brussels with EU internal market commissioner Charlie McCreevy, a delegation said the planned reforms to open up online music rights could mean an end to the role of the small collecting societies.

The meeting comes just three weeks after the Commission -- the EU's executive authority -- announced a formal investigation into licensing arrangements after preliminary findings suggested that European collecting societies were operating a de facto monopoly. The songwriters and composers at the Tuesday meeting were part of a delegation from the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers, which the Commission is investigating.

McCreevy insisted the Commission had no plans to limit or denigrate authors‚ rights. However, the artists appealed to him to see role the local collecting societies play in fostering new talent.

David Ferguson, chairman of the U.K.'s Creators' Rights Alliance and the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters said societies represent unique collective bargaining power in the face of an increasingly powerful music industry. "At the bottom of the value chain, creators are even more vulnerable in the digital age," he said in a statement issued today (Feb. 23). "Authors‚ societies remain the only safeguard for protecting our rights and accessing the marketplace."

Irish songwriter and guitarist Mike Hanrahan commented that last October's EU Recommendation to open up online copyright could lead to just a handful of major societies controlling the market. "Authors would be forced to assign their online rights to societies far from their home and without proper scrutiny of the management of their works," he said.

Danish singer-songwriter Pia Raug said disrupting the authors rights system that had cultivated the richness and diversity of European culture for 200 years "would have devastating economical, political and cultural consequences."

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