Coronavirus

IFPI CEO Frances Moore On the Global Battle For Copyright Reform

Frances Moore
Daniel Kennedy

Frances Moore photographed on Sept. 26, 2018 at IFPI in London, keeps clocks set to five different time zones in her office because, she says, “being a global structure, there’s always something to follow up somewhere.” 

Meet the woman running point on historic legislation for music rights holders in Europe -- while fighting for copyright everywhere else.

For the past eight years, Frances Moore has been the recorded-music industry's top global lobbyist. As CEO of IFPI, she leads worldwide efforts to fight piracy, open new markets and establish the kind of legal environment in which streaming can succeed. And for at least half a decade, one of her main priorities has been what label executives call "the value gap," the regulations that give user-upload platforms like YouTube a negotiating advantage by letting them stream music first and respond to takedown notices later. But in July, the European Parliament voted against fast-tracking a version of the EU Copyright Directive that would address this, amid an online campaign that cast the idea as censorship, generating millions of tweets and so much email to policymakers that some of them stopped checking it.

"It was like being hit by a lorry," says Moore in her Scottish accent. "If you think about the reactions to SOPA or ACTA [the 2011 U.S. Stop Online Piracy Act and the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, both of which sparked widespread protests], this was all of that on steroids."

Essentially, the issue pitted the creative business -- the rest of the music business, but also film, TV and various kinds of publishers -- against technology companies and interest groups that have generally succeeded in forestalling any serious regulation of the internet. Both sides spent massively, got help from icons (Paul McCartney on one side, prominent internet engineers on the other) and warned of dire consequences if the final vote in September went the other way. "We made the best case we could, and we lobbied for that case," says Moore. 

Then on Sept. 12, in a dramatic rebound for the music world, European Parliament voted to send an amended version of the legislation to negotiations among different branches of the EU. "To me, it's over when it's over," says Moore. But IFPI has likely helped win the kind of victory that has eluded the media business for years.

Moore, who has worked for IFPI in various roles since 1994 and now splits her time between Brussels and the organization's headquarters in London, does far more than lobby the European Union on copyright issues. She also oversees the IFPI's more than 90 employees and 57 national organizations that lobby governments from Berlin to Beijing. (China, the 10th-biggest recorded-music market, is now a "top priority," she says.) Not all the governments she speaks to have much interest in copyright at all, but she believes that the worldwide success of streaming -- and the way it allows artists and songwriters to cross national borders -- is changing that. "I think you'll see changes -- you already do in China," says Moore, "as more countries realize that copyright helps them."

How surprised were you by the Sept. 12 European Parliament vote to proceed on the Copyright Directive?

I wasn't surprised, but I must admit I was relieved. We were surprised by what happened in July -- not so much that [the legislation] was pushed back, but by how massive the onslaught against it was. There were 6 million emails in a week, telephone lines got blocked [from the volume of calls], there were all kinds of threats against [members of European Parliament]. But as time went on, we saw that a lot of this wasn't coming from Europe -- it was coming from Africa, Asia, Australia -- which suggested that it was an organized campaign rather than organic concern from constituents.

What changed between then and September?

There was a fog created by all of this misinformation, so in July, the members of European Parliament essentially said, "What's all of this noise? We better have a closer look at this legislation rather than fast-track it." But once they did, they made a decision based on facts rather than hysteria.

This new EU Copyright Directive will be important worldwide because it's a way to close "the value gap." Can you explain why that gap exists in the first place?

It's a structural problem in the marketplace. When the safe harbor legislation in Europe was passed [in 2000, as part of the Electronic Commerce Directive], it was meant to cover passive, neutral, technical companies -- where content was merely passing through their tubes. Some other services shoehorned themselves into that exception. YouTube essentially says, "If you don't like what we're offering [as license terms], send us takedown notices" -- which is very difficult when 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

The directive isn't done. What happens now?

We're not opening the champagne yet. There are now three versions of the text of the legislation [one each from the European Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament], and they're getting together to negotiate a final version. When that's done, then each member state has to implement this legislation, so we'll work on that on a country-by-country basis.

There's a lot of concern that giving platforms responsibility for what they transmit will incentivize services like YouTube to block content more aggressively. Are you worried about that?

We hope that a fair legal framework will enable more innovative services to get into the marketplace. I can't speak for YouTube, but one would expect them to continue to use content recognition technology the way they have in the past.

How is your job changing now that international operations are becoming more of a priority for the major labels?

We've always operated globally -- we have national groups in more than 60 countries. In the past, the industry was the U.S. and then the rest of the world -- they sometimes called it 'ROW,' for 'rest of world.' But now the business is more international, and because of streaming, you can't afford to have weak legislation in some countries that can be taken advantage of across the Internet.

And countries have to look at the opportunities as well. Nigeria and India are only now approving the World Intellectual Property Organization treaties [from the 1990s] because they're beginning to see the benefits of copyright.

So I think you'll see changes -- you already do in China. Two of the big six digital platforms, Tencent and Alibaba, are Chinese. And given the size of [China], there's huge potential to do much better as we encourage people to pay for music. We also have problems there -- we don't have a performance right [for sound recordings], and globally that's about 14 percent of revenue. We don't have that in China or the U.S.! 

What about Africa: Universal Music just opened an office in Lagos, and there seems to be a lot of talent emerging in Nigeria and Ghana.

Add Kenya to the list. What you'll see is that, as more African artists become known internationally, they'll get things sorted out back home. We've just been asked by some Nigerian companies to help set up a national group there.

Labels also face a challenge from the idea that artists can make direct deals with streaming services.

We've been talking about the role labels play for the last 15 years. In terms of direct deals, there are services that have been doing that for a while, like TuneCore and CD Baby. Spotify would be another choice. So labels will have to work hard to make sure that they remain the choice of artists. They have tools, networks, and global reach -- and they're reinvesting something like $4.5 billion a year, which is 27 percent of their revenue, in A&R and marketing.

You mostly deal with music on a policy level. What artists did you connect with growing up?

I'm a big fan of Bruce Springsteen and Rod Stewart. I saw Rod Stewart in Glasgow when I was 19. He was wearing a leopard-print leotard.

You have a global role, so you travel all the time. How many frequent-flier miles do you have, and how do you plan to spend them?

I have no idea how many I have, because usually when I want to use them there's nothing available. Sometimes I use some so my daughter or son can join me on a trip. In terms of where I'd like to go, I promised my daughter many years ago that I would take her to Antarctica, and we need to go do that.

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 13 issue of Billboard.


THE BILLBOARD BIZ
SUBSCRIBER EXPERIENCE

The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.


To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.