CMU: Belgium introduces ER right on streams

Belgium’s Parliament yesterday updated the country’s copyright laws to bring them in line with the 2019 European Copyright Directive and in doing so added a performer equitable remuneration right for streaming. It means that performers in the country will receive at least some of their streaming royalties directly from the services, most likely via the collective licensing system.

In most countries artists receive all their streaming royalties via whichever record labels or music distributors they have done deals with. What percentage they receive of any streaming money their recordings generate will depend entirely on those deals, and could be anywhere from a few percent to 100%. The artist’s share of the money might also be paying off past advances and other upfront costs incurred by the label.

However, many artists have argued for a system in streaming more like what usually happens in radio, where performers receive royalties directly via the collective licensing system at industry standard rates, meaning the specifics of any one record or distribution deal are irrelevant.

That system usually applies with broadcast and public performance because under copyright law – in those scenarios – performers have their own statutory right to remuneration in addition to the rights of the copyright owner, which is often a label. Therefore one way to get that system going in streaming would be to get a similar remuneration right for digital written into copyright law.

When the EU copyright directive was being negotiated, some campaigned for that change to be specifically introduced into European copyright law. However, in the end, that did not happen. But article eighteen of the directive did say that performers should receive “appropriate and proportionate remuneration” from the exploitation of their work.

Once an EU directive has been passed, each EU country needs to amend their national laws so that they are in sync with the new European laws. Most of the countries that have already done that have simply copied article eighteen as written in the directive directly into their national copyright laws, aka ‘literal transposition’.

That basically means nothing changes in practical terms, because article eighteen is pretty vague. After all, who is to say what constitutes “appropriate and proportionate remuneration”? And if lawmakers cut and paste that new commitment into law without seeking to change the current system, that possibly implies that they consider the current system to be “appropriate and proportionate”.

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