European Songwriter Organizations Call for EU Lawmakers to End ‘The Coercive Buy-Out Practices of US-Based VOD Platforms’

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Brussels’ Berlaymont building, which serves as the headquarters of the European Commission. Photo Credit: EmDee

The European Grouping of Societies of Authors and Composers (GESAC) and The European Composer and Songwriter Alliance (ECSA) are calling on EU officials “to put an end to the coercive buy-out practices of US-based VOD platforms.”

Brussels-headquartered ECSA (which consists of 55 songwriter organizations and is funded partially by the EU) and GESAC (encompassing 32 European organizations) detailed their recent meeting with members of the European Parliament in a formal release today.

Though the entities’ announcement message doesn’t identify the talks’ specifics, it does make clear that the organizations have far-reaching “concerns about the growing phenomenon of buy-out and work-made-for-hire contracts imposed on them by the major non-EU based VOD platforms.”

The way ECSA and GESAC see it, these buy-out contracts, i.e. one-time payments for the use of works, “deprive audiovisual (or screen) composers from an appropriate and proportionate remuneration, as well as the exercise of their moral rights,” besides “severely” undermining “creators’ ability to earn a living through their artistic work.”

Bearing in mind the qualms and the meeting with EU lawmakers, several ECSA and GESAC higher-ups and members are pushing for new laws designed to remedy the perceived injustices at hand.

“The options are either accepting the terms of a contract, however damaging,” ECSA president Helienne Lindvall said in part, “and thereby giving away the royalties they should be entitled to receive or losing the opportunity to work in a project handled by a very popular and dominant VOD platform and taking the risk of never working again for them. We need EU-wide rules to ensure fairness and create real choices for creators.”

And in remarks of her own, GESAC GM Véronique Desbrosses indicated: “Buy-outs imposed on creators by VOD platforms have become a growing phenomenon, with the dominance of US-based services in the market importing only the most harmful part of their national practices into Europe.

“To circumvent [the] fair compensation requirement in Europe, US-based VOD platforms rely on the US laws and the jurisdiction of US courts. The intervention of EU decision makers is needed to end this unfairness and ensure that internal market rules are applied to all players!”

Time will tell whether the campaign from GESAC and ECSA (which publicly criticized Epidemic Sound’s business model back in September of 2020) spurs the desired “EU-wide rules,” particularly because certain music professionals may prefer once-off payments and regard them as less coercive.

Earlier this year, the Court of Justice upheld Article 17 of the controversial Copyright Directive – a move that ECSA promptly praised – and Spotify head Daniel Ek personally visited Brussels in September in an effort to “accelerate” the EU’s antitrust investigation into Apple’s App Store.