Brussels, 25th May 2016,
Independent music companies welcome Europe’s plans to improve fairness in dealings with online platforms
IMPALA statement on EU Communication on online platforms and e-commerce package
As the EU sets out its next steps towards a Digital Single Market, independent music companies comment the EU's plans to boost e-commerce and improve the online trading environment.
Highlighting key principles such as responsible behaviour of platforms, fairness for SMEs, as well as a level playing field for comparable services, IMPALA welcomes the EC’s Communication on online platforms as “a key step in the right direction for Europe to take the lead in ensuring fairness and competition”.
IMPALA is pleased to note the EU’s commitment to introduce a set of measures to secure what IMPALA’s Executive Chair, Helen Smith, describes as: “an inclusive and competitive online ecosystem, where all actors operate on a level playing field”.
One area the EU will look at is unfair B2B trading practices against SMEs, which is most welcome. "This is a priority in music, and also other sectors where SMEs are the main actors. Specific action to tackle this question is vital", commented Helen Smith.
Helen Smith added: "Competition principles should also be reviewed to ensure they are fit for purpose in the digital age. The digital market is characterised by multiple indispensable trading partners and the presence of one multi-level operator who benefits from unprecedented network effects. It is important for the EU to take the lead on this."
IMPALA also supports the EU's ambition to make sure all services distributing copyright play by the same rules and that value generated by the online distribution of copyright protected works is fairly allocated.
The "value gap" was already flagged as a priority in the Commission’s copyright Communication of December 2015, and the Commission plans to tackle this issue after the summer. Helen Smith commented: "This is essential – it is the biggest source of friction today in Europe’s online music licensing market."
A review of notice and action procedures later this year was also confirmed today and IMPALA reiterates its call to ensure that notice and take-down becomes “notice and stay-down”. "This is also a top priority for our members" commented Helen Smith.
The European Commission also presented its draft e-commerce package today, including a proposal for a geo-blocking Regulation. Services providing access to or use of copyright protected content, such as music, are excluded, with a review to be conducted two years after the entry into force of the Regulation.
IMPALA expects any such review to confirm the ongoing rationale for excluding services providing access to or use of copyright protected content, which the Digital Single Market Commissioner, Mr Ansip, had already confirmed in December. “Extending the geo-blocking regulation to copyright related services would create a hindrance to cross-border activity and be a serious blow for cultural diversity. It would have the opposite effect to that intended by the Commission and we look forward to discussing this further with Mr Ansip”, commented Helen Smith.
IMPALA looks forward to continuing the discussion with the European Commission on its plans to boost the Digital Single Market.
Accounting for 80% of all new music releases in Europe, the success of the Digital Single Market is a key priority for independent music companies. Last year IMPALA set out a ten point Digital Action Plan to achieve this.
IMPALA was established in April 2000 to represent European independent music companies. One of IMPALA's missions is to keep the music market as open and competitive as possible. IMPALA has an impressive record on competition cases in the music sector. The first EMI/Warner merger was withdrawn in 2001 following objections from the EU after IMPALA intervened, in its first year of existence. It also won a landmark judgment in 2006 in the Sony/BMG case, and when Sony acquired 30% of EMI publishing in 2012, it was at the cost of significant divestments. The biggest set of remedies proportionately ever in a merger case was secured later that year, when UMG was forced to sell two thirds of EMI records and had to accept ten years of scrutiny over the terms of its digital deals. When WMG bought Parlophone in 2013, IMPALA secured a hefty divestments package for its members. On top of mergers, IMPALA has also been involved in other anti-trust cases involving the music sector, such as the abuse complaint against YouTube in 2014 and the call for regulating unfair business practices by large online players. IMPALA has also submitted observations on Apple’s bid to acquire Shazam. See the organisation's other key achievements in IMPALA's milestones.