Creator rights in the digital age

Guest post by Brian Message, Founding Shareholder of ATC, Manager of Radiohead

For the digital age to fulfill its true potential to democratize access to culture and allow the exchange of ideas and knowledge that we all feel it can deliver, it is essential that the creators on whose content this extraordinary exchange is built are not left behind.

While it is clear that there are problems to resolve in making sure platforms and the other digital intermediaries are not able to undermine the value of creative content by exploiting legal loopholes, it is equally important that we all share fairly in the pie that we are told will grow over time.

The digital world has increased vastly the number of different deals between intermediaries and the complexity of those deals. Artists wanting to try to work out the value of their work face a concrete wall of non-disclosure agreements, incomprehensible revenue statements and the fact that significant value from the deals done between major labels and platforms have been designed to divert revenues to the corporations without the legal obligation to share the benefits with the artists on whose catalogues that value has been created.

It is essential that the review of copyright currently underway in Europe does not leave out creators and that rights and protections for artists sit at the very heart of the new legislation.

To ensure a vibrant, creative and cultural music industry in the digital age, it is essential that artists have:

1. Rights to transparency where they maintain a financial interest through the value chain

2. The security of knowledge that rights holders who exploit their work have a duty of care to act in the mutual interests of both parties and cannot undermine the value in artists’ future cash flow by doing deals that increase non-attributable advances and take equity in exchange for a lower ‘per stream’ rate

3. A fair share of the total value generated by the exploitation of musical or audio-visual works online

4. The protection of remuneration rights as consumers transition from radio to streaming platforms that deliver equivalent services. Streaming exhibits elements of both music sale but also music broadcast and fair representation of this new technology has not yet been expressed in the remuneration rights artists have relied on for so long in the analogue world.

The IAO is not looking to fight technology or the march of progress. On the contrary. Artists want to foster innovation and push the uptake of new and exciting services and allow exciting opportunities for communication and creativity.

We must just make sure that the system underpinning this explosion of potential ensures the artist is able to benefit from a fair reflection of the value generated by their work.