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News August 12, 2016

Safe harbours get more attention, PRS for Music speaks out

Safe harbours get more attention, PRS for Music speaks out

The ongoing saga continues into the argument for copyright infringement protection for user uploaded content platforms such as YouTube, Daily Motion and SoundCloud.

The argument that companies such as SoundCloud should be excluded from the protection of compulsory licensing deals – that sees the platforms pay copyright owners for their content – is generating more and more heat over seas. In a speech given by Frances Lowe, Head Of Legal, Policy & Public Affairs at UK collection society and performance rights organisation PRS, Lowe discussed Safe Harbours at length.

In her speech to the Westminster Media Forum on Tuesday, Lowe stated: “The UK’s songwriters and composers play a significant role in the UK economy and its exports”.

Lowe went on to state the “EU is their most important market. And their current priority is securing fair income from the use of their music across the online ecosystem, so that careers can be sustained”.

These ‘online eco systems’ are at the heart and concern for the push to regulate and enforce harsher accountability for copyright infringement. Currently, companies such as SoundCloud are protected by Safe Harbour laws which see their user uploaded platform free from harsh copyright infringement penalties due to the nature of their community based model.

As Robert Xavier (Advisory Commission Member for the Australian Law Review Commission) stated in his submission during the implementation of Safe Harbour Laws, Xavier said the exemption “is to give carriage service providers some protection from the otherwise unavoidable risk of liability for inadvertently hosting or communicating infringing material on behalf of their users.”

Beyond Safe Habour Laws, SoundCloud has recently implemented the use of Audible Magic to combat infringing uses of its service. The technology is a “fingerprinting technology” which automatically identifies copyrighted works. However, at best, the technology works inconsistently. Most direct copies of copyrighted songs are consistently removed, as Audible Magic’s audio recognition software accurately identifies songs that have not been altered.

Unfortunately, problems arise when the technology attempts to analyse remixes and samples. Some of these altered songs are successfully identified and removed, while other alterations of the same song are allowed by Audible Magic’s algorithms to remain available. The scope of the argument from the regulatory bodies’ side, seems to be based on the protection and justified compensation for the artists’ sake. However, arguments are made that the intentions to enforce harsher regulations come from a push of the Record labels and the continued decline in sales of music across the world in general.

Currently SoundCloud are in pre-hearing negotiations with PRS after being sued for refusing to take a license to stop infringement of their members. It seems most likely that the greater the argument becomes for artists’ livelihood the more likely the platforms for community based sharing will become more regulated and less accessible. Only time will tell.


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