13:11, March 25 256 0 theguardian.com

2019-03-25 13:11:05
Thank EU for the music – not the grasping tech giants

Shakespeare writes about a man, who “sold his goodly manor for a song”. The way I read it, the Bard implies that “a song” would be worth very little, if not to himself, at least to the people in his audience. A song is such a weightless, elusive phenomenon. How can anyone put a value on that?

Ever since Shakespeare’s day, “for a song” has been an idiom that represents something you get very cheaply. The YouTubes of this world know this, and they’d like to keep it that way. They say thank you for the music and make millions off songs we all love and cherish while the writer gets a pittance.

I’m not complaining because I personally get too little, I’m complaining because it’s galling that the tech giants keep so much. And when it comes to less fortunate songwriters than myself I’d much rather they got a larger share, so that they can afford to work on their art, writing full-time.

The European Union copyright directive is being voted on this week and that is what it is about. It is about creating a fairer and more level playing field between the creative community and the tech giants. There’s a “value gap” between them, and the latter are ferociously defending it.

It seems those who support the tech giants would like us to think the directive is about other things. But is it credible that alarming, warlike headlines like these stem from agitated EU citizens: ‘Shocking update on the copyright directive’; ‘Today Europe lost the internet’; ‘How the new copyright laws will destroy the internet’; ‘EU to end the internet’?

I don’t believe so. Does the copyright directive fascinate and stir the minds of EU citizens in such a way? Have you heard people talking about it in the street? It almost makes you think that this grassroots uproar may have been created in order to make it look as if the EU is acting against the “will of the people”.

Conspiracy theories aside, the copyright clause in the US constitution of 1787 states that it is intended “to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries”. It was a good idea then and it is still a good idea now. If content creators of all forms can live off their work, they will become better at their craft and that will ultimately be good for society. This is the core of the EU copyright directive and I think all content creators should support it.

After all, “Without a song or a dance what are we?”

Björn Ulvaeus is a songwriter, artist and a member of Abba