First issue of Music & Copyright for 2016

A very Happy New Year from all of us at Music & Copyright. What better way of starting 2016 with a new issue. Here are some of the highlights.

YouTube breathes easy as the PRS deal with SoundCloud means no safe harbor test
UK authors’ society PRS for Music and online music service SoundCloud have ended their legal dispute and reached an agreement for a multi-territory license to cover the service. PRS began legal action against SoundCloud in August, accusing the service of using its members’ music without paying the necessary royalties. At the time, SoundCloud claimed it did not need a license for its service as it was protected by safe harbor provisions in European Union (EU) law. The deal covers the use of music on SoundCloud dating back to the service’s launch, with PRS members being recompensed for past usage. However, the settling of the dispute means there will be no legal challenge to the safe harbor defense claim and it remains unclear whether services such as YouTube, that rely on safe harbor protection for the use of music, are operating within EU law.

PopArabia faces an uphill task in its MENA digital music rollout
In December, digital music rights company PopArabia added Warner Chappell to the list of music publishers it represents in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA). Not only does the deal mean PopArabia has licensing deals in place with all of the major music publishers, it places the company at the center of the region’s digital music space. Although PopArabia represents one of the best chances for digital music services to gain access to international music publisher content and a return on music used by local services, the region remains devoid of much needed copyright legislation. Rights holders in a number of countries in the region see little return on the use of their works and the prospect for change remains clouded by a lack of movement by governments on rights protection.

EC takes aim at content portability in Europe as part of the new copyright framework
The European Commission (EC) has taken what it describes as the first steps to broadening access to online content in Europe and has outlined its vision to modernizing copyright rules in Europe. As part of its Digital Single Market strategy announced in May, the EC has now published an agenda with the express aim of bringing copyright legislation in the region up to date. Proposals tabled by the previous digital commissioner are to form the basis of new copyright changes going forward as part of the current five-year Commission. The EC noted that the task of uniting industry stakeholders that have long held very different opinions regarding the extent of copyright reform in Europe is not an easy one and commented that achieving the correct balance across all the different stakeholder sectors may well prove to be just as difficult and contentious this time around as it did in the previous Commission mandate.

Regulators are now considering OTTs’ impact on communications markets
In recent years, communications markets have been profoundly affected by the increasing uptake of OTT services by consumers. OTTs’ impact has been significant in both mature and emerging markets, radically modifying the way end users access communications services and posing a challenge to traditional telcos’ revenues. As often happens in markets heavily influenced by technological development, regulation has struggled to keep up with the changes. Nearly everywhere, regulatory frameworks still define electronic communications providers as those players that own or have access to a network and convey signals; inevitably, such definitions exclude OTT players, which have so far benefited from minimal or no regulation. However, regulators are now showing their awareness of the impact these players have had and are starting to consider how to adjust to the evolved communications landscape. In particular, there has been extensive debate during 2015 at the EU level and in India, where public consultations have taken place and will inform policy-makers’ response in the near future. In Switzerland, too, the regulator, the Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM), has recommended changes to the telecoms act.

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