GONG - Genootschap van Onafhankelijke Nederlandse Geluidsproducers

ESDA News from the Netherlands

The Netherlands contribution to this submission takes the form of the position taken by the Dutch Music Producers Guild (GONG) in its legal proceedings against the neighbouring rights collection society in The Netherlands, SENA. These proceedings have been lengthy and are still on going. There are also separate discussions underway between GONG and SENA that have yet to reach any definite conclusions. Whilst the issue surrounding the extent of the rights they hold remains unresolved, the arguments illustrate Dutch music producers as recognised stakeholders in the production of phonograms.

The WPPT treaty was incorporated into Dutch legislation in 1993 into the Neighbouring Rights Act (WNR; Wet Naburige Rechten) which literally translates the definitions of Performers and Producers of Phonograms as stated in the Rome Treaty of 1960, the WPPT. The pleadings distinguish between (1) the Music Producer as the (Co-) Producer of a Phonogram and (2) the Music Producer as performing artist/ conductor.

It is important to know that the board of SENA consists of representatives from the major record companies’ nominated by their branch organisation NVPI and the Performing Artist Labour Union. It is particularly hard for the Dutch Music Producers Guild to argue against such established interests having no representation on the SENA board whatsoever.

In their action in the Dutch courts against SENA, the Music Producers claim that SENA has misinterpreted the Treaty and the Dutch Neighbouring Rights Act in that it has wrongfully assumed that the record company is the person ‘responsible for the first fixation of a performance’ whereas clearly the independent Music Producer is that person. The record company nowadays kicks in after the first fixation, i.e. it gets the master (tape or digital) and subsequently embarks on duplication of the master, marketing and distribution, all of which are activities which take place after the process of the fixation of a performance. The record company would only qualify as the Music Producer/ Producer of Phonograms when it employs the Music Producer, i.e. as an employee on its pay roll, which usually was the case during the early 1960’s but such has changed dramatically since then.

The “Report of the Rapporteur-General” of the diplomatic conference on the Rome convention states the following: “ Producer of Phonograms. As in the Hague Draft, ‘Producer of Phonograms’ is defined as the person or legal entity which first fixes the sounds of a performance or other sounds. It was noted during the discussion that when an employee of a legal entity fixes the sounds in the course of his employment, the employer legal entity, rather then the employee, is to be considered the producer.”

It is clear that, as in other Intellectual Property systems, the “maker” unless employed is entitled to the statutory royalty and will be awarded such unless he or she has assigned such rights to the principal by contract.

The preparatory works for the Rome Convention started in 1957 and resulted in the Monaco Draft, the Producer therein is mentioned as the “Recorder” and defined in Article 3 sub 7 sub b, as “the person who first fixes a performance or other sounds in material form”. This definition was reproduced in the Hague Draft of 1960 in Article 10b thereof which eventually became Article 3c of the Rome Convention (WPPT). Eugen Ulmer extensively reports on the context of this Article in line with the Monaco discussions in his 1957 monograph:

“Dem Wunsche der phonografischen Industrie hätte es entsprochen, an die Herstellung des Endproduktes anzuknüpfen. Er ist von dem Interesse geleitet, einen Schutz für die in einem Staat hergestellten Industrieschallplatten auch dann in Anspruch nehmen zu konnen, wenn die Herstellung auf Grund von Matrizen erfolgt, die aus einem nicht-vertraglichen Staat stammen. Rom-Entwurf und Entwurf des Internationalen Arbeitsamtes hatten diesem Wunsche Rechnung getragen.

“Mit Grund waren aber in den Stellungnahmen der Regierungen Bedenken geltend gemacht worden. Der Schutz der Tonträger muss – ähnlich wie der Schutz von Lichtbildern – im Zeitpunkt der Aufnahme und nicht erst im Zeitpunkt der Herstellung des Endproduktes einsetzen, wenn nicht Aufnahme und Matrize vogelfrei sein sollen. Folgerichtig muss dann aber auch bereits im Zeitpunkt der Aufnahme der Trager des Rechtes feststehen. Als Hersteller ist daher im Rechtssinne diejenige Person anzusehen, die die erste körperliche Festlegung – die Aufnahme – der Töne vornimmt. Dies war bereits von der Studiengruppe vorgeschlagen worden und wird nun ausdrücklich in Art. 3 Abs. 7b des Entwurfs bestimmt. Gleichgültig ist dabei, ob die Aufnahme durch ein Unternehmen der phonografischen Industrie, ob sie durch den Rundfunk für die Zwecke seiner Sendungen oder ob sie von Privatpersonen, die im Besitze eines Aufnahmegerätes sind, vorgenommen werden. Verwendet der Schallplattenfabrikant fremde Aufnahmen, so ist er darauf angewiesen, sich die Rechte abtreten zu lassen.

“Die Regelung wird durch die Erwägung gerechtfertigt, dass die Leistung, die die Anerkennung des Schutzes rechtfertigt, in der Aufnahme liegt. Gerade die Aufnahmen, die von der phonografischen Industrie zur Herstellung hochwertiger Schalplatten durch künstlerisch-technisch geschultes Personal vorgenommen werden, sind ein Beweis für die Leistungen, die bei der Festlegung der Töne erbracht werden können. (…)”

In the above it is argued that the effort which is the object of the protection to be granted under the treaty is the Music Producer’s skilled effort of recording the performance, i.e. the fixation rather than any subsequent activity in the process of exploiting the master. The Music Producer clearly is the “maker” of the first fixation of a performance and as such is the true recipient of the title Producer of Phonograms. The discussions at the time of the inception of the Rome Convention reflect the fact that the industry wanted the protection to commence at the moment of the fixation and not thereafter. Such was also subscribed to by Stephen M. Stewart: “ Taking Article 10 together with the definition of a ‘producer of phonograms’ in Article 3.c. as ‘ the entity which first fixes the sounds of a performance’, makes it clear that the right owner is the person or the company making the original recording and that neither any of the technicians involved in making the recording such as ‘Sound Master’, nor the company which subsequently manufactures (presses) the records from the original recording is a right owner.”

The pivotal word here is “making”, he who makes the first recording, i.e. the Music Producer, people like Sir George Martin and ‘Babyface’. The right is not constituted by reproduction or duplication of the master for retail or broadcasting purposes but by the maker of the master. Such is also recognised and incorporated in German law, Par. 85 Urheberrechtsgesetz and again Ulmer in “Urheber- und Verlagsrecht” 3rd edition 1980, p.534: “Hersteller der Tontrager ist, wer die tone aufnimmt” or the maker is he or she who controls the recording process.

It follows from the above that the Music Producer clearly is the person meant to be protected under the Rome Convention, they have actually been ‘responsible for the first fixation of the performance or other sounds’.

What exactly is required to allow such a first fixation to take place? Some guidelines are provided by J.A.L. Sterling who lists the following “substantive Contributions” by the Music Producer:

  • taking the necessary decisions as to place of recording and suitable equipment, and the direction of the performers;
  • effecting the recording itself by the means necessary to obtain the desired effect, in particular in the balancing and mixing of the recorded material
  • editing the recorded material
  • processing the recorded material in a form suitable for the desired quality of playback.

Music Producers either perform these tasks themselves or are in charge of arranging these and having them performed under their supervision. Apart from these ‘Substantive Contributions’, Sterling refers to ‘Creative Contributions’ and ‘Organisational Contributions’ of the Music Producer preparatory to and during the first fixation:

  • The selection and engagement (either as employees or on an independent basis) of the relevant personnel, in particular the performers and the recording team
  • The provision of the recording facilities, in particular the studio and recording equipment, and of duplication and distribution facilities for the marketing process (e.g. formatting for various media applications).

Many Neighbouring Rights Collection Societies use the argument that the record company should be the only entity entitled to the neighbouring right because of the financial risk involved in distribution and marketing, however, none of that is in any way intended or included in the Convention’s definition of a Producer of Phonograms, on the contrary the definition does in no way refer to financial risk which needs to be protected, financial risk is an entrepreneurial fact of life and not an phenomenon which constitutes the basis of intellectual property rights. The Producer of a Phonogram is therefore a Music Producer working independently and not a record company. The Rome Convention protects the maker of the first fixation of a performance and not the provider of the financial means to do so.

In Holland, most music producers have their own studios. It is possible that most products will be made for direct distribution, by-passing the record companies input except perhaps in their marketing, sales and distribution roles.

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