Helen Smith, Impala : « the copyright debate is being used to build a false divide between creators and citizens »

Posté par Isabelle Szczepanski le 27 août 2018

Helen Smith is the executive chair of IMPALA, the organisation representing independent music companies in Europe. In that capacity, she has been working on subjects such as investment in the music sector, EU cultural programmes, and the copyright directive, which she tells us everything about. She also explains, in detail, IMPALA’s concerns relating to the latest consolidation announced in the music market : the acquisition of EMI Music Publishing by Sony. 

ElectronLibre – Independent music companies you represent are concerned about Sony’s attempt to gain sole control of EMI Music Publishing. Can you explain those concerns ?

Helen Smith – The music market is already very concentrated and the gap between the independents and the majors is huge, so any attempts to consolidate it further are going to raise concerns. Sony is the biggest music publisher worldwide and by acquiring EMI Music Publishing, it would double the number of songs it owns. Not only that, Sony would control a lot more repertoire because every time one of its writers has a credit in a song, Sony’s consent is required. This is the case even if there are a dozen other writers involved not signed to Sony and even if Sony only has a small proportion of the revenue. That is what the EC will look at, to determine how much control Sony would have. The result will give the EC Sony’s control share and it will show that no other company would control so much music. Sony would have excessive power throughout the creative chain, with collecting societies, authors and artists, and retailers, in particular digital services.

It would mean negotiating with the most formidable music company in the world. Sony is already an indispensable trading partner and it would have a near monopoly position in some countries. Sony’s recent land grab in digital distribution has accentuated its power over digital services and it would also be able to leverage both its recording and its publishing catalogue during negotiations. This would give Sony a grip over digital services far greater than any other operator. On the talent side, Sony would be able to hoover up the best singers, songwriters and artists at the expense of its competitors. Cultural diversity and consumer choice would also suffer. Increased market power means more focus on Anglo-American repertoire, which Sony already has tendency to focus on, to the detriment of investment in local repertoire. We need big operators, but not when they are allowed to acquire so much power that they strangle the market and squeeze out the independents, who are the ones taking the risks.
« Margrethe Vestager has taken a tough line with Google and others to keep the digital market competitive. We expect her to adopt a similar line with Sony, given the reputation the company already has in terms of extracting excessive value from digital services »
This summer, IMPALA announced that it had lodged concerns with the European Commission about the transaction : are…

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