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What does introduction of the EU Digital Services Act mean for music?

You may have noticed there has been a lot of talk around these new rules for digital services that have grown even more central to our lives during the coronavirus pandemic during 2020.
Millions of Europeans use online intermediary services every day. The rules that are currently being put in place by adopting the Digital Services Act are meant to update and clarify the responsibilities of users, platforms, and public authorities in accordance with European values, placing citizens at the centre.
The DSA proposal not only addresses violence or illegal content. It introduces new obligations on platforms that have enjoyed the so-called safe harbor provisions. Those obligations are a duty to disclose to regulators how their algorithms work, on how decisions to remove content are taken and on the way advertisers target users.
Many of its provisions only apply to platforms which have more than 45 million users in the European Union. Platforms including Facebook, Google’s subsidiary YouTube, Twitter and TikTok would meet that threshold and are subject to the new obligations.Wikipedia

So how does this apply to music? Since the start of the pandemic, musicians have lost all opportunities to promote and monetize their music live and had to connect with their standing and new fans via live-streams. Their entire career strategies had to refocus pretty much completely on the online digital spaces, many of which however didn’t have the correct copyright licences in place for artists to keep control of their income stream.

The new DSA is not directly focused on the complex problem of copyright, however the whole industry hopes that the combat against illegal content will also strengthen the copyright protection and any new rules will also include additional measures to stop copyright infringing material from being posted and shared. In other words, it regulates user generated content created with art that is not properly copyrighted and which, so far, the hosting platforms weren’t held responsible for.

Copyright rules within the single market of the EU are to be directly regulated by the European Copyright Directive. One of the main objectives of ECD is “a reinforced position of rightholders to negotiate and be remunerated for the online exploitation of their content by user-uploaded content platforms and transparency rules related to the remuneration of authors and performers.” And that is indeed very good news for musicians and their teams. Being in the position to negotiate with these platforms and their users is a step in the right direction.

UK is just one step behind and the conversation on the regulations of these matters post Brexit is very heated, especially as it also addresses the rather unfair and unclear redistribution of revenue to artists from streaming. (You can re-watch the latest debate of the MPs here.)

The entire problematics of equitable remuneration is complex and won’t find resolution straight away, but the general opinion is that we are making progress in making the music industry ever more transparent and a more exciting place to be for new independent musicians.

As Frances Moore, Chief Executive of IFPI expressed: “We strongly support the European Commission’s goal to ensure greater accountability and transparency of digital services and to introduce effective obligations to tackle illegal content online. This proposal represents an important starting point and we look forward to working with the European Parliament and the Council to ensure the legislation fulfils its vital goal.”

This is where you can download the Digital Services Act in any of the languages of the EU states.

We will keep you informed on any developments of this matter.