I have received this bulletin that appeared in Billboard. I would like to know the situation of other members here...
January 21, 2006
COMPOSERS CLAIM 'ABUSE'
Trade Group Says TV Producers Offer Unfair Publishing Contracts
BY HOWELL LLEWELLYN
MADRID - European composers will meet Jan. 24 at the MIDEM trade fair in Cannes to decide on campaign tactics for tackling what they call "abusive" publishing contracts imposed by TV broadcasters and producers.
Composers from eight European countries formed a new trade group, the European Federation of Film Composers and Audiovisual Music, at a Madrid meeting in late December. EFFCAM links representative bodies from Spain, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland. Their main complaint is that increasingly, composers of music for TV productions are asked to sign their commissioned work over to the TV company's music publishing arm, regardless of their own publishing deals. The composers say the TV companies require them to hand over 33.350% of their author's rights. If they refuse to sign, they say, the commission goes to another writer.
"These contracts mean the composer cannot choose his own publisher for the work, and his usual publisher loses business," says Bernardo Fuster, president of Spain's Assn. of Audiovisual Music Composers (Musimagen), which took a leading role in forming EFFCAM. "This abuse must end," Fuster says. The system represents "coercion and bullying," claims David Ferguson, chairman of the 3,000-member British Academy of Composers & Songwriters. "By not allowing freedom of competition for composers and publishers, TV publishers are creating market distortion," Ferguson says. In the United States, composers have grown accustomed to giving up rights to TV producers under the Copyright Act's work-for-hire provision. This is not the case in Europe, where composers typically agree to a nominal sum for their work with the understanding that there will be future royalties.
Musimagen and the BACS raised the issue of TV payments with regulators in Spain and the United Kingdom in 2004 and 2005, respectively. Fuster says he expects a favorable ruling from the Spanish Economy Ministry's competition tribunal by midyear. No date is set for a ruling on the BACS complaint to the U.K. Office of Fair Trade. "It has been a long and winding road," Ferguson says, "but we are confident of victory." However, he warns that "the independence of writers to choose which publisher to associate with will be undermined forever" unless European composers move swiftly on the issue.
Enrique Garea, director general of the publishing arm of Antena 3, one of Spain's most popular TV networks, dismisses the composers' complaints. "In no sense are the contracts abusive," Garea says, "and publishing business customs are not violated. The TV channels contract work from musicians they think are the best around, and it's logical that these composers sign the publishing contract, normally [handing over 50% of their rights]. It is up to the composers to accept the conditions." Ferguson counters: "The logic of that argument is wrong. The correct thing is that one music publisher should represent a composer exclusively." Ferguson, formerly signed to Carlin Music but now looking to strike a new publishing deal, recalls being asked in 1999 to work on a major U.K. TV film. "I said no to signing the clause," he says. "The [TV company's] publisher told me if I didn't 'behave sensibly,' the producer would be given a list of eight composers who would." Ferguson signed.
Musimagen member José Nieto, an award-winning composer, says he has not been offered TV work since 1992, when he refused to sign the 50% clause. "The contracts are absurd and aberrant, but I have been lucky outside TV," says Nieto, who is published by Paris-based Amplitude. Although some major publishers strike co-publishing deals with the TV companies, independents say they are rarely contacted by broadcasters seeking their writers' music because TV companies want to deal directly with composers. "I can't offer anything to TV companies, because they're not interested in dealing with outside [independent] publishers, nor our music," says Teresa Alfonso, president of the 60-member Spanish Assn. of Music Publishers. "We are excluded from a lucrative trade."
Ferguson says a constitution for the fledgling EFFCAM is being drafted and he hopes a broad-based group will emerge from MIDEM. "It could be linked to the European Music Writers Network [trade body] formed in June 2005," he suggests. "A Pan-European body needs at least 100,000 euros a year [$145,000] to campaign, so a big group is essential."