Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja: ‘Music industry faces extinction without EU legislation’

Tenor Joseph Calleja defends controversial new Copyright Directive

Tenor Joseph Calleja
Tenor Joseph Calleja

The European Union’s proposed Copyright Directive restores fairness to the music market and ensures Google can no longer avoid a fair licence for works uploaded on YouTube, Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja told MaltaToday.

In a letter to the editor being published today, Calleja reacts to the wave of criticism that took the internet by storm ever since the EU’s JURI committee last week voted in favour of the directive.

“What this law does is clarify that some websites (only those user-uploaded content sites like YouTube) which distribute copyright-protected works such as music to the public can no longer claim an exemption from copyright to avoid taking a fair licence,” he writes.

“They must come to be on the same level as fully licensed services and stop earning gargantuan profits from creators’ works and not accepting full liability to share the due return.”

Calleja echoes the sentiment of Europe’s music, broadcasting and publishing industries who have all hit back at internet critics of the EU overhaul of copyright rules, saying claims the reforms might lead to the demise of the internet amount to misinformation and scaremongering.

Both sides have ramped up their lobbying this week ahead of a crucial vote on Thursday that will determine the European Parliament’s position on the reforms, which aim to make tech giants such as Google and Facebook share revenues. The heavy campaigning could swing the vote.

Parliament’s stance will, in the coming months, need to be reconciled with that adopted by EU countries and the European Commission’s proposal announced two years ago, which seeks to take into account the growing role of online platforms.

The debate has coalesced around two points – article 11 or the so-called neighbouring right for press publishers which could force Google, Microsoft and others to pay publishers for displaying news snippets.

Article 13 or mandatory upload filtering would require online platforms such as YouTube, GitHub, and Instagram to install filters to prevent users from uploading copyrighted materials or seek licences to display content.

Among the suggestions from the likes of Google is the claim that the shake-up will mean the end of memes, remixes and other user-generated content. Others have said that it will mean ‘censorship’ and even wildly predicted it will result in the ‘death of the internet’.

And while some of the myths are repeated by people who remain blissfully untroubled by the technical but crucially important details of the proposed EU changes, in the worst cases this propaganda is being cynically pedalled by big tech like Google’s YouTube with a huge vested and multi-million-pound interest in this battle.

Calleja insists that the directive essentially brings YouTube to the same level playing field as everyone else, without targeting the nature of the content itself.

“This legislation isn’t contradictory with ensuring artists get paid for their work – quite the opposite; they can continue to do what they do, but artists who have copyrighted works will now benefit more from their works being up there,” he told MaltaToday. “This is precisely what is meant by closing the Value Gap.”

Maltese Nationalist MEP Francis Zammit Dimech – a member on the EU’s YURI committee that approved the directive – came under fire from some quarters for backing the proposed legislation.

But Calleja had nothing but praise for the veteran Maltese politician.

“The crucial issue here is that without this law the music recording industry faces extinction,” he said. “Indeed, I laud and thank Francis Zammit Dimech for his crucial vote that will ensure that our youngsters will have recording opportunities in the future.”