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Topic: Composers claim abuse

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  1. #1

    Thumbs down Composers claim abuse

    I have received this bulletin that appeared in Billboard. I would like to know the situation of other members here...

    <http://www.billboard.com>

    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."
    Eduardo Tarilonte |Sample Library Developer
    SampleLibraries |MyWeb

  2. #2

    Re: Composers claim abuse

    Gracias, Tari,

    La verdad es que es una auténtica vergüenza... como si la industria en España no fuera ya de por sí precaria...

  3. #3
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
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    Re: Composers claim abuse

    This is happening everywhere.

    I just lost a nice chunk of work, because the producer wanted EVERYTHING. He would not consider any arrangement except strict work for hire, with the production company owning all shares, both my authoring and publishing. My name would have been nowhere on it...as if I didn't exist.

    The thing that makes this worse? I would bet good money that if I were to post this guy's contact information, someone from this very forum would take the deal...just to "get his foot in the door."

    Unfortunately, folks, this is something we're doing to ourselves. If even the youngest composers, hungry for work, do not realize that their livelihoods depend upon the back end, then we are all going down this road together.

    This is what pretty much destroyed the live playing scene...bands who would play for anything, or nothing, or even pay to play a venue. Once that starts, nothing has value any more.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Steve_Karl's Avatar
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    Re: Composers claim abuse

    So I guess it's really about the individual perception of personal value.
    How does one compete with a wave of cultural devolution that places
    fame ( as in how other see me ) above integrity?
    Am I taking all of the fun out of this discussion by cutting to the core of it,
    or am I totally off the mark?

  5. #5

    Re: Composers claim abuse

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce A. Richardson
    This is happening everywhere.

    I just lost a nice chunk of work, because the producer wanted EVERYTHING. He would not consider any arrangement except strict work for hire, with the production company owning all shares, both my authoring and publishing. My name would have been nowhere on it...as if I didn't exist.

    The thing that makes this worse? I would bet good money that if I were to post this guy's contact information, someone from this very forum would take the deal...just to "get his foot in the door."

    Unfortunately, folks, this is something we're doing to ourselves. If even the youngest composers, hungry for work, do not realize that their livelihoods depend upon the back end, then we are all going down this road together.

    This is what pretty much destroyed the live playing scene...bands who would play for anything, or nothing, or even pay to play a venue. Once that starts, nothing has value any more.
    I've turned down work for these reasons, and never regretted it, although i may have gone a little hungry more than once. And i completely agree with the live band scene. Nasty little upstarts turning up for nothing, playing two crap tunes they wrote and covering 10 more recycling them through the night.
    And for what it's worth Bruce, you didn't lose anything, most importantly of all, your self respect. All credit to you for saying no.

    It's a pity others are so enamored with 'fame' they don't see it that way. Work is work, but not at any price. This is a passionate lifetime subject for me, so i'll stop here, before i get into full blown rant territory.

    Suffice to say, if all rights for composers and performers are lost, because there are those who say yes to this corporate theft, then they only have themselves to blame for the reduction and eventual demise in work and standards of excellence. I've refused work in the past from producers who played this disgusting game, and will do so in the future, no matter my circumstances. Some things are worth going without for.

    Just say no, and we all get to keep something for ourselves.

    There's never been a better time for some sort of global club or organisation, that works in OUR collective interest, and not neccessarily only on behalf of the producers, and/or money men.

    Perhaps a black list here somewhere of those producers and companies in each country who indulge in this self interested practise?

    Regards,

    Alex.

  6. #6

    Re: Composers claim abuse

    Totally right Bruce and Alex. What more can I say?
    Eduardo Tarilonte |Sample Library Developer
    SampleLibraries |MyWeb

  7. #7

    Re: Composers claim abuse

    The rules here in the UK were changed a while ago so that film companies could not also be the music Publishers in order to stop this practice. Unfortunately all it did was make the companies start a sister company under a different name so that it is still "business as usual". In order to be a Publisher a company has be able to demonstrate that the infrastructure is in place to exploit the music for the financial gain of both Publisher and Writer over and above the original project earnings. Furthermore they also are require to prove that they have attempted subsequently to exploit the music or they lose the right to be the Publisher. Of course any writer who enforces the above will never be offered any work by this film company again, so in practice this safeguard is useless.

    What would be better would be an automatic return of the Publishing rights to the Writer after a number of years if there has been no further use. This way the Writer wouldn't be penalised and they would be able to exploit the music themselves if they wished to do so.

    There are many odious practices going on; co-writers who don't write a note, arrangers who never arrange or even set foot in the studio, producers who credit themselves as arrangers or composers and take all the Writers share of the royalties. Unfortunately whilst the big TV companies are up to their collective necks in it I don't see any change short of European Legislation.

    D

  8. #8
    Senior Member
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    Re: Composers claim abuse

    Quote Originally Posted by Daryl
    Unfortunately whilst the big TV companies are up to their collective necks in it I don't see any change short of European Legislation.
    D
    That's right - and also there are certain things in the initial statement/post that make me very uncomfortable.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Steve_Karl's Avatar
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    Re: Composers claim abuse

    Quote Originally Posted by PaulR
    That's right - and also there are certain things in the initial statement/post that make me very uncomfortable.
    What makes you feel uncomfortable?
    Would the terms 'natural selection' be applicable to the discussion?

    Steve

  10. #10

    Re: Composers claim abuse

    Quote Originally Posted by Daryl
    Unfortunately whilst the big TV companies are up to their collective necks in it I don't see any change short of European Legislation.

    D
    Daryl,
    I suspect even then we'd see little change. There's just too much integration between the media and politics, and the politicians stand to lose imagewise if they bite the hand that feeds them, and effectively keeps them in power.
    But, I wonder if the practise of TV giants farming out contract work to smaller production companies provides an opportunity to change the situation.
    Like Paul, all of this makes me uncomfortable, but we can't say it hasn't been coming, or it's even a new situation.

    Regards,

    Alex.

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