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Working for Nothing

If you love music & respect those, who make it. You need to keep an eye on what the UK government is doing, or more precisely not doing to implement EU copyright law. Copyright is the legal right that allows an artist to protect how their original work is used. Article 13, (now 17) of the EU Copyright Directive requires online platforms to stop copyrighted material getting onto their platforms.

Most agree the Directive is far from perfect, but it starts to push in the right direction by realising artists need protection in the digital world of user-generated content. Surely, it’s in the consumer’s interest we ensure artists, including musicians, filmmakers and illustrators receive fair remuneration for the work they produce, and we go on to enjoy regardless the platform we receive their creative endeavours be it digital, radio, cinema, TV or gallery?

There is a BBC link here, which provides useful background information, but for now, this is my take on the situation after reading several items across a number of news outlets, including the Musician Union.

Smoke and Mirrors

During 2019 The UK Government was one of the key supporters of the Directive, which was not surprising given the importance of the ‘cultural industries’ to our domestic economy. But In January 2020 the UK Government announced it will not be implementing the Directive. In the duplicitous world of politics, it’s not difficult to discover the short gap between what governments say and what they actually do. Still, even Flipper the Dolphin would be impressed by Boris Johnson’s flip-flop.

What had changed in such a short period of time? The only significant event to have taken in this period is, of course, the general election in the UK that Johnson’s Conservative’s won. It is easy to come to the conclusion that Johnson was saying one thing to one audience before the election with a plan to deliver after the election.

Most if not all the big on-line platforms who are reliant on user-generated content are very much against the copyright law not only because it places a greater onus on them to police their own platforms, but they are unlikely to be keen on the prospect of diverting revenue away from themselves towards deserving artists who make the content that drives people to use their platform.

The tech companies are nothing more than 21st-century monopolies interested in maintaining their market share and profits. The two largest streaming services have over 75 million tracks on their platforms giving them a disproportionate hold on the market. Think of tech companies as empty supermarkets and the artist is the producer, delivery driver and shelf-stacker who is then paid on a sales only basis.

The core business model for these tech companies is to reduce their costs, maximise their revenues and push risk and cost on to the producer of content they need (ie the artist). The tech companies want to spoon-feed you a diatribe of commercials and they certainly do want an informed customer base. This explains why the tech companies have fuelled campaigns against the proposed Directive by dumbing down the debate around the narrative “the meme ban” it is not.

Little Man Lost

The power social media and hosting platforms hold over politicians is the same the print barons had. Johnson will do as he is told be in no doubt.

Johnson now claims that it was “a classic EU law to help the rich and powerful” and “a good example of how we can take back control”. This is just claptrap and what is simply happening here is Johnson is supporting the interest of big business over those of individual artists working, against the odds, to create content we want to enjoy.

Johnson, like Trump, has used these tech companies and their platforms to great effect and it’s not in either parties interest to threaten their self-interests. The power, which the social media and hosting platforms hold over politicians is similar to the power the print barons held over politicians in recent history. Be in no doubt, at the end of the day Johnson will do as he is told.

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