Entertainment & Arts

Stop making music copyright demands, broadcasters told

Composer Chris Smith
Image caption Chris Smith spoke for Basca at the ECSA press conference in Brussels

Composers are being "bullied" into surrendering their copyright by TV companies across Europe, a group representing musicians has claimed.

The charges were laid in a complaint to EU competition authorities by the European Composer and Songwriter Alliance (ECSA) in January.

ITV and BSkyB are among the British broadcasters accused of "the coercive acquisition of composers' rights".

Based in Brussels, ECSA represents more than 12,000 composers and songwriters.

Basca - the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors - is a leading member of ECSA and helped draft the complaint, which was filed with the European Commission's Directorate General for Competition last month.

"Individual composers find themselves obliged to sign away their rights for fear of losing work or of being blacklisted if they refuse," said composer Chris Smith, from ECSA's Working Group on Coercion.

Image caption ITV, Sky, Rai (Italy) and RTL (Netherlands) are among the numerous broadcasters cited

The practice meant "income which would otherwise flow to composers" was "being taken by third parties", he added.

In a statement released ahead of a press conference held in Brussels on Wednesday, ECSA said what it called "coercive commissioning" was "a malignant and growing business practice in the audio-visual and media production sectors".

"ECSA alleges that the terms of publishing agreements into which composers are coerced by some of Europe's largest and most prominent broadcasters are far less fair than what could be secured in a truly free and open market."

Broadcasters and production companies in the Netherlands, France, Italy, Denmark and Austria are also cited in the complaint.

It is now up to the European Commission to decide whether to open a formal investigation.

BSkyB have declined to comment. The BBC News website also approached ITV and has yet to receive a response.

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