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STREAMING BILL RUFFLES FEATHERS

A new bill that recommends legislative changes to “fix” music streaming in the U.K. has ruffled feathers, including those of former EMI Chairman and CEO Tony Wadsworth.

In an op-ed for The Times, Wadsworth, who is also a former chairman of the record-label trade body BPI, says the bill (which can be read here) poses a threat to the music industry’s renaissance, claiming the proposals would “cripple the investment labels are able to make in new artists, especially at smaller independent companies" and concluding, “If adopted, these proposals would create huge uncertainty and a mountain of red tape and make the U.K. a terrible place for investment in music.”

Published last week, the bill was put forward by MP Kevin Brennan, who proposes changes to U.K. copyright law that would result in equitable remuneration being applied to streams (like it is for radio, where 50% of earnings go to the copyright owner and 50% to the performer), as argued during the economics-of-streaming debate and in the subsequent report. The new right would only apply to artists who haven’t self-released (those who have could actually receive less money under the new rule than they are currently). 

Brennan argues for contract adjustments that would offer creators the right to renegotiate old deals, copyright reversion after 20 years and transparency rights. 

Wadsworth countered: “When I was CEO of EMI Music in the U.K., I could see the returns from the hit acts of the 1980s funding the investment into new artists in the 1990s, which in turn funded the investment into the young artists of the 2000s.” He took particular issue with the proposed idea of “additional right” payments, which could create “unprecedented potential for agreements already negotiated between willing parties to be pulled apart and the specter of copyright assignment being retrospectively slashed from 70 years to 20 years.”

Wadsworth’s concerns are largely echoed by those of both indie label trade body AIM and the BPI, who have issued statements arguing against the legislation. 

The Musicians’ UnionIvors AcademyFeatured Artists Coalition and Music Managers Forum were more welcoming, however. The MU said that “legislative reform is overdue,” the Ivors pointed to “market distortions” in the music industry that “must be fixed” and the MMF and FAC hope the report reaches the next stage in Parliament, which would allow further debate. 

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