IFPI Erases Evidence Of Fascist Roots For 75th Anniversary

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Any organization reaching a major anniversary would be proud of this fact, with press releases, interviews and celebration. The IFPI hasn't said anything about reaching its 75th birthday. Instead, one of their staff has edited their Wikipedia page to keep their roots a secret. So what exactly do they want to hide?

International organizations with fine traditions don’t normally miss an opportunity to celebrate anniversaries. It’s also common practice to inform the public about their founding and history on their websites. This is not the case when the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. How come? Thanks to Copyriot, here is the story that the IFPI wants to hide from the world.

In 1933 the phonographic industry held a congress in Rome, Italy, to form an international federation. The fact that Italy had been a fascist dictatorship for eleven years under Benito Mussolini, wasn’t something that bothered them.

On the contrary, the IFPI returned to fascist Italy for the next congress, held in the northern tourist resort of Stresa in 1934. Specially invited was CISAC, the France-based International Confederation of Authors and Composers Societies. They had heavily opposed the IFPI’s goal in giving the phonographic producers rights of their own within the framework of the Berne convention, since they feared this would lessen the composers’ rights. At the meeting in Stresa, the IFPI convinced CISAC to support an alternative line, where the record companies’ rights would be guaranteed in a special convention.

However, CISAC emphasized that this protection were not to be constructed so that the artists’ rights are diminished. The Italian government also showed interest for such a solution of the issue and had a special commission put forward a convention draft on the subject.

Memo from Swedish Department of Justice, 1953

This quote shows it wasn’t just the Mediterranean climate that made the IFPI organize its first activities in fascist Italy. The regime provided especially good support for their lobbying cause.

After the preparations had been made through detailed debates within the jurisprudence, the Rome active International Institute for Unification of Private Rights made the initiative in 1939 to gather an expert committee that would put forward concrete proposals on the subject.

Memo from Swedish Department of Justice, 1953

The committee was headed by Dr.Ostertag and quickly proposed a draft. For a change – or maybe because Mussolini’s Italy at the time was on the verge of World War – the committee’s first meeting was held in Samedan in neutral Switzerland. The committee members were probably less than neutral. Since the committee members had been appointed by the judicial institute in Rome, we can safely assume they were loyal to the fascist regime.

The conclusion from the committee was a proposal to combine the rights of the phonographic industry and the rights of the ‘performers’ (i.e. musicians and actors) in one convention. This had a large impact on the continuing legislation that to this day in 2008, regulate the music economy.

The continued work on the Samaden proposals was postponed because of WW2. After the end of the war, the work was restarted within the permanent committee of the Bern union. This was first assembled in 1949 in Neuchâtel and it was decided to refer the Samaden proposals back to Bern union member states and other states for consideration. The following meeting was held in October 1950 in Lisbon and is essential to the continued development.

Lisbon? Why did the IFPI, five years after WW2, chose fascist dictatorship Portugal as the site to continue the work that had started in fascist dictatorship Italy?

It might have been a coincidence, but the convention texts that were put together with great efficiency during these meetings were far from obvious. On the contrary, they competed with parallel attempts to reach an international convention that would extend something resembling copyright to musicians, who were organized by ILO in close cooperation with the musicians’ labor unions. They cared less for the wishes of the phonographic industry. Rather, they strove to protect jobs for live musicians, who seemed threatened by the ‘mechanization’.

These intentions took time and were discussed in detail, but if they had been quicker it is very possible that the international copyright would’ve taken another direction, where musicians – not record companies – were seen as legitimate rights holders of the music that is played in radio and public speakers.

Now, this never happened. The expert commissions, assisted by the fascist regime in Italy, had been quicker – to the great joy of the phonographic industry. The Samaden proposal led to the ‘Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations’, finally signed in 1961 and today a deeply integrated part of Swedish copyright law. It is thanks to this that record companies can claim outlandish damages against The Pirate Bay.

As opposed to music publishers, record companies don’t have copyright in the right meaning, but thanks to the Rome convention they have something called ‘neighboring rights’, that over time have come to be just as important.

In addition, we note how George H.C. Bodenhausen – one of the lawyers that during the 1950s developed the Rome convention – referred to fascist Italian laws on the subject (legislated during the war in 1941) as a model, “the most up-to-date legislation”.

This does not mean the Rome convention is ‘fascist’. However, it’s hard to disregard its strong characteristics of corporatism, which have made a strong impression on the copyright bureaucracy. It’s also important to remember that the musicians’ labor unions suggested an entirely different solution, which didn’t have the same institutionalized feeding of the record companies. Without suggesting that the IFPI as an organization had fascist sympathies, they strategically used the fascist regime’s anti-union stance and corporative policies during the 1930s. The outcome of this tug-of-war still characterizes how copyright policies are formed.

That the IFPI was founded in fascist Italy in 1933, is little know today. The information has previously been posted on Wikipedia:

It was formed /…/ during 1933 in Rome, Italy, under the fascist government of Benito Mussolini by companies mainly owned or controlled by General Electric in the United States of America

In April 2005, someone removed the mention of fascism but left the fact about where and when the IFPI was founded – until August 25th 2006. On that date, the Wikipedia page was edited by someone with IP address who deleted all information about the IFPI having a history at all. That is how it’s remained on Wikipedia’s IFPI page until now.

The person who deleted the information about IFPI’s founding did it from IFPI’s headquarters in London. The IP address points there.

Why is the IFPI so scared of its own history that it tries to keep it a secret that 2008 is its 75th anniversary?


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