MEPs meet collective management societies and authors at the European Parliament

Much is said about the transparency and governance of collective management societies, but what is the reality? What role do societies have in authors’ professional life? What place and role do authors have in their society? Do they have a real say in how their rights are managed? How do they take part in decision-making?

These are just some of the questions mooted on Tuesday in the European Parliament in Brussels. Authors and their societies met with parliamentarians engaged in the collective rights management dossier to share ideas, raise concerns and explain their point of view.

In front of a packed-out crowd, three Members of the European Parliament, Helga TrüpelMarietje Schaake and Emma McClarkin were given the chance to question both the CEO of the author society active in their home country and one of this society’s members. The event was kindly hosted by MEP Cecilia Wikström.

The running order of the event was as follows (biographies at the end of the article:

Dialogue 1:  German composer Enjott Schneider and CEO of GEMA Dr Harald Heker

Dialogue 2: Kris Wauters of Clouseau and CEO of Belgian society SABAM Christophe Depreter

Dialogue 3: Simon Darlow from the UK and Robert Ashcroft, CEO of the PRS for Music

We trust our collective management societies, say authors

Strong collective management societies are crucial, say authors

Of course, these MEPs are familiar now with the CRM dossier, but rarely do they have the chance to meet the people who it will ultimately impact – the authors themselves. They seized their chance to ask them frankly what benefit they derive from their society. Invariably, the authors replied with conviction that their society is an invaluable part of their lives and livelihoods.

Enjott Schneider encapsulated two strong arguments that many authors share. First, without GEMA his days would be spent doing paperwork to keep on top of his rights. Second, authors do not have market power when they are alone and collective management societies defend creators’ interests in an increasingly competitive world and creators would be quickly exploited without them.

Simon Darlow, a British songwriter, concurred. He said that his society, PRS, is ‘central’ to his livelihood, and the members of the PRS for Music – composers, songwriters, publishers – have the chance to meet their society 9-10 times a year with different levels of engagement to make the decisions affecting their professional lives.

Kris Wauters, who has been a member of SABAM for many years, is philosophical. He’s seen real improvements in the way SABAM is run since 15 years ago and – although he does acknowledge that there were profound problems back then – insists that the real enemy for authors now is the misperception that their societies have. He believes that the creators can be the centre of decision and change in their societies when they want to take this responsibility.


CEOs demonstrate willingness to engage

The three MEPs each took a different approach to their questions to the CEOs, taking the opportunity to really hone in on the concerns they have.  Transparency was top of their minds.

Robert Ashcroft, was keen to emphasise that transparency isn’t just a principle that his society stands by because it’s the right thing to do – it’s also a crucial condition for operating. He argued that the issue of managing copyright is so complicated, especially in the digital age, that it’s vital that all relevant information is centralised in one database. Technological solutions are already in use and under way; currently just 0.0013% of PRS collections cannot ultimately be distributed and PRS’s members agree together how this should be spent.

MEPs also clearly wanted to address some of the negative press stories that circulate around collective management societies, for example on ‘where the money goes’, Christophe Depreter noted that commercial users’ accurate and timely reporting has an important role in ensuring that the authors and composers receive fair payment on time. He also underlined that SABAM is accountable to all its members, ready to provide any relevant information and improving its readiness to respond to the needs of their members.

Harald Heker, stressed that the societies should act in the collective interests of their members and meet their needs. At GEMA, they encourage authors to be more involved with decision making procedures. So they both instil solidarity and ensure that ‘authors themselves are the author society’.

The debate wrapped-up with a thought-provoking debate and questions from other participants, among them the MEPs working closely on this file, such as  the Rapporteur for the CRM Directive, Marielle Gallo, MEPs Mary Honeyball, Sabine Verheyen, Piotr Borys, Eija-Riitta Korhola and the assistants of many others.  The digital world offers a good deal to everyone, it was agreed, but this must be balanced out with the needs of creators. It’s vital to communicate that true freedom does not mean ‘for free’: we must appreciate and communicate that compromises must be made all-round.

Photos: (Above)Emma McClarkin MEP with Simon Darlow, devoted member of PRS; German composer Enjott Schneider and CEO of GEMA Dr Harald Heker with Helga Trüpel; Kris Wauters of Clouseau and CEO of Belgian society SABAM Christophe Depreter with Marietje Schaake. (Homepage) MEP Cecilia Wikström


Enjott Schneider is a German Composer (1979-2012 Professor for composition at the University of Music Munich). He has written 8 operas, 7 symphonies, 6 oratorios, 13 organ symphonies, chambermusic, but also more than 500 soundtracks, for major films like “Stalingrad”, “23”, “Schlafes Bruder”, “Armageddon”, “Stauffenberg” and TV-Productions ranging from soap operas to epic TV-movies. He was awarded with the Bavarian Film Prize for the music to “Rama Dama”, the German Film Prize for the music to “Wildfeuer” and for “Silent Shadows”, and the “Fipa d’or” 2001 (best European Film Music) for “Jahrestage”. Enjott is chairman of the supervisory board of GEMA. Further information on

Harald Heker is Chief Executive Officer of German authors’ society GEMA since 2007. GEMA represents more than 65,000 composers, lyricists and music publishers. Before joining GEMA, Harald was Managing Director of the Institute for Copyright and Media Law in Munich and General Manager of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association (Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels).

Simon Darlow has worked as a composer/arranger and player since 1982. Briefly in Buggles with Trevor Horn (Adventures in Modern Recording Album), Simon co-wrote several hits produced by Trevor including: “Give Me Back My Heart” for Dollar and the million-selling “Slave to the Rhythm” by Grace Jones. He has written for many including Toyah, Cliff Richard, Shirley Bassey, Elkie Brooks, Martine McCutcheon and Carol Decker (T’Pau) and has written for over a hundred TV shows. Deputy Chairman (writer) of PRS for Music and Chairman of BASCA, Simon is also a member of CIAM Executive Committee, the MCPS-PRS Alliance Board and a trustee of the PRS for Music Foundation.

Robert Ashcroft was appointed in 2010 as Chief Executive of the UK authors’ society PRS for Music which represents some 95,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers. Before joining PRS, Robert worked for a number of international companies in London, Paris and New York, including eight years on the management boards of Sony Electronics in the Unites States and Sony Europe, the Walt Disney Company and Hudson Morris Associates amongst others.

Kris Wauters is a Belgian musician, singer-songwriter and producer. Together with his brother Koen, Kris Wauters is the core of Clouseau, Flanders’ most successful band since 1988. Fifty of their songs made the charts, with sales of around 3 million records in Belgium and Holland. Between 2000 and 2010 the group run of over 100 concerts. Kris has co-presented a number of talent shows (Idol, X-Factor) on Flemish TV.

Christophe Depreter is the Managing Director of Belgian Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers, SABAM since 2009. Being the largest cultural company in Belgium, SABAM represents 36,000 authors. Since 2012, Christophe is President of GESAC, European grouping which groups together 33 of the main authors’ societies in the European Union, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland.