Composers tell EU: Broadcasters treat us unfairly

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By DON MELVIN, Associated Press

BRUSSELS (AP) — A group representing composers and songwriters is alleging that some of Europe's most prominent broadcasters are coercing them into giving up the copyrights to their work, sharply diminishing their earnings.

The European Composer and Songwriter Alliance, representing 12,000 composers and songwriters, filed a complaint with the European Commission, the EU's executive branch, targeting more than 15 broadcasters and studios, including the BBC, British Sky Broadcasting and ITV.

The complaint targets companies in the Netherlands, France, Italy, the U.K., Denmark and Austria.

At a news conference Wednesday in Brussels, representatives of the alliance said composers are often told they won't be considered for a commission unless they're willing to give up the copyright to whatever music they ultimately create.

In the U.K., that can mean composers giving up 50 percent of their income and in other countries the percentage lost can be even greater than that, they said.

The group also said composers often have an annual income around 4,000 pounds ($6,300) a year.

"If you're giving up half of it, or even 80 percent of it, and you're earning probably less than a nursery school teacher would, or a child minder or even a dog walker, then that percent of your income starts to become relatively significant," said Chris Smith, a British composer.

The complaint, filed with the European Commission's Directorate General for Competition, alleges that broadcasters and affiliated production companies are abusing their dominant position in the market to suppress competition.

The commission must now analyze the complaint and decide whether to open a formal investigation.

A spokesman for the BBC declined comment on the complaint Wednesday.

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Don Melvin can be reached at http://twitter.com/Don_Melvin

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