x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Middle East to host music royalty

A new association for music publishers in the Middle East will act to lobby regional governments over issues such as the lax enforcement of copyright laws.

Middle East artists such as the Lebanese pop star Haifa Wehbe, centre, will benefit from the latest move to enforce copyright laws. Mohamed Azakir / Reuters
Middle East artists such as the Lebanese pop star Haifa Wehbe, centre, will benefit from the latest move to enforce copyright laws. Mohamed Azakir / Reuters

A new association for music publishers in the Middle East will lobby regional governments over issues such as the enforcement of copyright laws.

The International Confederation of Music Publishers (ICMP), which represents the interests of the music publishing community worldwide, said yesterday it had agreed to the formation of a Middle East branch.

The Middle East Music Publishing Association (MEMPA) will be formed after discussions between the ICMP and Rotana, which owns the world's largest catalogue of Arabic music and film, and Fairwood Music (Arabia), which represents the publishing rights of Universal Music Publishing and EMI Music Publishing in the UAE.

"Fairwood and Rotana and the new MEMPA will be accepted as the newest member of ICMP, the world trade association representing the interest of the music publishing community globally," said Ger Hatton, the secretary general of the ICMP.

"The idea would be to have a music publishing association which is a much stronger platform, particularly for advocacy work," she added. "We have to have a vehicle to lobby the government, and you can't do it as a company."

Hussain "Spek" Yoosuf, the managing director of Fairwood Music Arabia, said such a body would allow the industry to speak as one.

"In the Middle East there is no collective association that represents music publishers as a lobbying opportunity. And so we've been discussing putting just that together," he said.

In most other regions, royalties are paid to singers, music publishers, writers and artists when copyrighted material is used by radio and TV broadcasters and in other public arenas. But until now no such system has existed in markets such as the UAE, which means many Arab music publishers and artists are losing out on royalties.

According to the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers, almost US$10bn (Dh36.72bn) in royalty payments was collected globally by such societies last year. By not paying royalties for music, many broadcasters are in breach of local copyright laws.

The UAE's copyright law of 2002 states copyright infringement is punishable by a fine of Dh10,000 and two months in prison. But this law has never been enforced in regard to TV and radio stations.

The UAE's Ministry of Economy has long been considering the formation of a rights collection society, which, as a "restricted" activity, needs government approval.

Rotana - the Saudi media group behind some of the biggest names in Arabic music such as Alissa and Haifa Wehbe - says it has been losing $5 million a year in missed royalty payments in the UAE.

Jihad Nehme, the executive manager for Rotana's publishing division, urged the approval.

"Music is in danger in the Middle East. As Rotana, we were producing over 100 albums per year; today we are producing 20 albums a year. In the near future, maybe we will stop production," said Mr Nehme. "In order for the music to survive, we need definitely to have a collection society."

 

bflanagan@thenational.ae