June 2013: from the CRM directive to private copying

Q&A with Véronique Desbrosses, General Manager of GESAC.

Next week the Collective Rights Management dossier will be voted on in the European Parliament’s JURI committee. Do you have a final message to give the committee members as they consider how they will vote?

We are pleased that the European Parliament has improved the text considerably. However, the tendency not to put creators at the centre of decision-making and to introduce very restrictive rules on the governance and day-to-day operation of author societies unfortunately endures. This is our main concern as this type of rules would, in most cases, go against the will of creators themselves would not be in line with the objectives of this Directive.

Take the example of undistributed royalties, for instance.  To re-cap, undistributed royalties are money that societies have collected on behalf of their members but which, due to insufficient information to identify relevant rightholders, cannot be distributed, notwithstanding societies’ best efforts.

Some amendments suggest that this money should be exclusively redistributed among known rights holders; others propose that the money should only be invested into social and cultural funds.

Our view is that it is up to creators and the general assembly of societies to decide.  It’s a message worth repeating that societies are made up of creators, so undistributed money is their property. It makes sense that they be the ones with the final say on this.

That’s of course not the only issue relating the directive but for other issues we’ll be in a better position to comment after the vote in the Legal Affairs Committee next week.


This week Licenses for Europe has had its mid-term review. What are your personal thoughts on how things are going?

Licenses for Europe has certainly been a useful exercise and should continue. Set up to deliver rapid progress in bringing content online through practical, industry-led solutions, Licenses for Europe has highlighted many of the existing and emerging initiatives that are already out there across Europe. Today, for example, Europeans have more than 260 online music services to choose from – a sound reflection of the cultural diversity that exists in the EU.

Armonia licensing hub and the GRD provide necessary support for the administration of musical works. They are both excellent examples of how interesting and promising solutions are emerging from the industry itself. They bear witness to the progress that can be made without legislation.


The exclusion of creative industries from TTIP was a big victory for you this month. It’s something we have written about a lot but what is your personal point of view?

To echo what has been said already, it is vital that the whole creative sector be excluded from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. No-one is denying the contribution that US culture makes to our lives in Europe; but the simple fact is that opening up the European market further by including culture within TTIP would cause irreparable economic, cultural and social harm to Europe’s creative fabric, weakening European artists’ and producers’ position even further. Simply put, it would weaken European artists’ position at home yet not strengthen their position in the US.

European Commissioner Karel De Gucht’s reluctance to have a clear position against re-opening the discussions on the mandate during the free-trade talks therefore clearly raises concerns. We’ll be following how this develops, and making sure that our voice continues to be heard in this crucial debate.


Next week there will be an exchange of views in the European Parliament on private copying. How are you involved in the private copying debate now?

Private copying represents some 5% of artists’ revenues, so it is clearly a topic we feel passionately about – we remain consistently engaged in the debate on this issue.

We are pleased that MEP Françoise Castex of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament is preparing an own initiative report on the issue of private copying. Among other things, the report promises to touch on the relationship between private copying levies and copies made as result of a licence. We welcome the recent decision of the European Court of Justice on VG Word case in this respect, which clarifies the interpretation of the EU law on private copying.

The retail price of devices like iPods is another issue. Contrary to what the producers of these devices would have us believe, there is firm evidence to show that private copying levies do not increase the price that consumers have to pay for an iPod or similar device.

We look forward to reading Mrs Castex’s own point of view on these crucial issues in September.