Midem 2016 was not afraid to tackle some of the most controversial issues in the modern music industry. In this, the third of our Midem Review posts, we explore some of the themes discussed at the show’s Legal and Copyright summits.

From artist compensation and publishing rights to the copyright issues posed by new music-related social apps, the digital music ecosystem is facing a number of ever-mutating challenges. The stakes are higher than ever as the industry pivots its weight behind streaming, which lent a spark to the Legal and Copyright summits at Midem 2016.

The Legal Summit, developed in association with the International Association of Entertainment Lawyers (IAEL), kicked off with an update on the pressing legal issues for the music industry and the technology ecosystem around it. Topics covered included the EU single market; developments in Asia, the UK, Belgium and Germany, as well as keynotes from Peermusic’s Tim Cohan, SACEM’s David El Sayegh and Music Canada’s Graham Henderson.

Cohan talked about copyright reform in the US which has recently been outlined in a report from the Copyright Office. “The recommendations focused on fair compensation to creators, encouraged a more efficient licensing process – including the availability of a public database – and again bringing up the suggestion of perhaps blanket licensing and mechanical licensing being managed by a central organisation,” he said, while warning that “probably you’re not going to see anything that looks like copyright reform in the next year.”

Meanwhile, El Sayegh accepted that there are demands for more transparency from collecting societies, but suggested that the societies in turn need more transparency from digital music services in return.

“It’s not only about to collect money. We need the relevant information to distribute the money. And we face, unfortunately, very strong difficulties. And not only in the traditional way of collection,” he said. “The most important difficulties we have is with certain online actors. For instance a company which starts with a ‘Y’ and ends with an ‘e’ which is a major UGC platform. Believe me, it’s a nightmare. It’s a nightmare to work with those guys.”

Watch the full panel below:


Another panel, on the subject of the monetisation of the global music business, reviewed recent developments around how artists and rightsholders make money from the fast-evolving digital ecosystem.

It was keynoted by Ty Roberts, who recently joined Universal Music Group as SVP and CTO. He talked about three topics: monetisation and some of its challenges; the growth happening in music and some new formats; and technology that is creating some “interesting licensing challenges” for the community.

It’s strange that the system that creates the rights and payments metrics for our whole business is like a competitive advantage for each service provider. It’s a little like if I was in retail, we compete over how the cash register works. That’s a real challenge for any business,” he said.

“The reason this has evolved this way is as an industry we’ve been a little bit bifurcated, and also we’ve not been astute technologically, although many talented people have tried over many, many years to bring together standards and databases.”

Roberts did not sugar-coat his warnings to the music industry that more innovation and evolution is required. “I would actually say that the industry has made pretty good progress at getting individually our data somewhat organised.. but unfortunately we don’t build systems very well, because we license and sell and deal with creative content, and music and artists,” he said.

“But unfortunately we live in a world of systems, so either figure out how to do it, or it’s going to figure out how to do you – which I think it’s kinda doing at the moment.”

Watch the full panel below:


The Midem Legal Summit also saw a topical session on visual social media, focusing on the copyright issues around apps like Snapchat, Instagram and Musical.ly, where people are sharing video clips that may often include music.

“Video is becoming central to platforms like Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram, and artists are using these as the next promotional tool, connecting directly with their fans. It’s become the go-to tool for promoting music,” said Alex Kisch, EVP of business development and business affairs for Vevo.

But it is still I’d say predominantly promotion, and basically that means rightsholders are not getting paid. Friend? Enemy? Frenemy? Somewhere in between. This is still very early days for these guys, but I think it will move quickly.”

Watch the full panel below:


Midem’s inaugural Copyright Summit was introduced by Music Confidential executive editor and publisher Susan Butler, who said she has grown to dislike the word ‘copyright’ due to negative media attention.

“There are far too many bloggers and journalists who use the word in a negative way, and they use the word as if people are hiding behind the shield of copyright to be bullies,” she said. “In fact, all they’re really trying to do is protect their rights, in a world that is changing every day.”

The summit also explored issues around transparency, and whether music rightsholders are evolving with the developments around collecting societies’ members, users and regulatory bodies.

Transparency is an issue that is much larger than an EU directive. I think that it’s a philosophical requirement in our marketplace. Without any transparency there isn’t any trust, and with no trust there’s no effective marketplace,” said Andy Heath, chairman of Beggars Music Publishing.

“We’re suffering from many, many decades of great opacity,” he continued. “There was so much stuff that was going on that nobody knew – it was all technical, it was all shrouded in mystery and ancient stuff. Which is by and large all gone, so to that extent the market is much healthier now. The unhealthy element has probably arisen out of receipt of online revenues, which have been cloaked in all sorts of NDAs which I think creators find unsatisfactory… The deals can’t be done without the NDAs, so there’s a sort-of Catch 22 there.”

Watch the full panel below:


The Copyright Summit also saw a session focused on pan-European licensing hub Armonia, which is a group of collecting societies aiming to make online-music licensing and processing simpler and more efficient.

President Jean-Noël Tronc talked about the progress that the hub has made. “It’s a family of societies and key partners, and we have been trying to be first of all flexible and pragmatic,” he said.

“Over the last four years we have tried to broader and deeper. Broader in the number of members… and deeper in developing some back-office tools to improve what we do when it comes to better identifying, matching and eventually distributing online revenues for our members.


However, YouTube loomed large during the Copyright Summit: a later session on Building Sustainable Growth saw IFPI CEO Frances Moore return to the criticism of Google’s online-video service, and current ‘safe harbour’ legislation more generally.

“It’s YouTube, but in fact it’s any service that develops which is making available content and pretending to be in a safe harbour. But at the moment, the biggest focus and the largest service in the world, the largest platform is YouTube,” said Moore.

By hiding in the safe harbour it means it can take, when it goes to license with the companies or with whichever party, it can take a ‘take it or leave it’ approach. So our companies have got one hand tied behind their back. Either they take the deal that is offered to them, or YouTube says to them ‘okay, if you don’t like the deal, then it’s notice-and-takedown. Send me notices and I’ll take your music down.”

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Stuart Dredge is a freelance journalist, and a regular contributor to Music Ally, The Observer and more... including midemblog :)

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