When the WPPT was transposed in 1999, Hungarian legislation subjected online rights for authors and performers to extended collective management. This choice was in response to the massive character of online uses and significant imbalance in negotiations between artists and producers.
Since collective management is not, however, mandatory, performers and authors are free to opt individually for other forms of managing their rights.
An agreement was signed in 2004 between EJI (the organisation for collective management of performers’ rights) and Majors. EJI undertook not to claim remuneration for an online service where a given artist was concerned on condition that proof that the artist had been paid be provided by the label in question. Since most record companies did not abide by this agreement nor pay artists, the latter, discouraged, requested EJI to collect from Deezer the amounts that were due to them, in accordance with the law.
Deezer refused any form of payment, claiming that artists’ online rights were directly held and exercised by the labels, thereby placing themselves in clear breach of the law in force.
On 8 April 2016, the court proved the artists right, judging that “by using their music without authorisation and refraining from paying for this use, Deezer jeopardized performers’ rights”. Consequently, in order to compensate for this breach, Deezer will have to pay to EJI the amounts due to all performers since October 2012, the date when Deezer began operating on the Hungarian market.
The practices of music platforms must absolutely change to a more ethical and seamless approach. It is not just a question of musicians’ rights to receive income which is due to them, but also of the legal security of such platforms.
This decision of first instance is a victory for EJI and, generally speaking, all performers. It also constitutes a strong signal to all online music platforms. Whether we are talking of Deezer, Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, Tidal… streaming or downloading platforms must in no case suppose that performers’ rights are entirely held by their producers, whatever the latter claim.
Recent judgments sentencing dubious labels establish moreover that online rights cannot have been transferred by the artist when the contract was signed at a period when such rights did not exist. This means that a good number of recordings are currently being exploited online in sheer illegality.
The practices of online music platforms must absolutely change to a more ethical and seamless approach. It is not just a question of musicians’ rights to receive income which is due to them, but also of the legal certainty of such platforms.
Musicians and the organisations which represent them are more than ever determined to pursue their combat for a fair Internet using all appropriate means. This is the aim of partners in the Fair Internet campaign.
See the EJI press release (in English)
Photo: Dr Pál Tomori |EJI Director © MUJ 2015