Riverdance composer Bill Whelan is among more than 1,000 leading artists who have signed a petition asking that tech giants like YouTube and Facebook pay a proper rate for the use of music and other art on the internet.

The petition, Make the Internet Fair for Creators, demands that the European Commission take immediate action to address the transfer of value taking place online at the expense of songwriters and composers, HotPress.com reports.

The giant tech companies argue that copyright obligations don’t apply to them. Yet, the advance of online streaming of music has led to a significant drop in artists’ income.

"They hide behind safe harbor exemptions to avoid paying creators and rights-holders fairly,” HotPress was told. "It’s not just major pop stars or the music sector at large that is under threat because of this; it is the entire creative ecosystem, made up of composers, authors, directors, screenwriters, photographers, sculptors, painters, etc."

The letter explains the damage done to artists.

“The dominant players in the market, like YouTube, are platforms built on user-uploaded or aggregated content that don’t or only barely provide remuneration for our work,” it says. 

The letter says this "pulls the entire market value of creative works down in a never-ending race to the bottom.”

Irish composer and musician Bill Whelan, who is also a founder member of the Irish Music Rights Organization (IMRO), is among those who have launched the petition.

“The arrival,” he says, "of universal access to the Internet with the attendant free and illegal availability of music and other copyright material has had a seismic effect on an economy which had previously supported and disseminated this material. Legislators worldwide have been unable to keep pace with the rate of change and have consequently been unable to evolve a body of law which protects the rights and interests of creators and copyright owners.

"This fact is now well noted internationally,” he added. "What is less evident is the fundamental change that has taken place in the lives of those who were previously able to devote their careers to activities which can be described as 'cultural.'

"The nourishing effects of creative activities are essential to our understanding of ourselves and our society. By removing the income sources which previously sustained these, we have, in a startlingly short time, reduced these careers to being essentially ‘amateur' or part-time. The creators who wish to continue their work are now forced to engage in all kinds of often unconnected activities to support themselves.

"The Commission should be forcefully [made] aware of the organic effect that this is having culturally and take swift and radical action to respond to this alarming and culturally damaging situation.”

Ennio Morricone, Brendan Graham, Pedro Almodóvar, Charles Aznavour, Andrea Bocelli, Daniel Buren, Alejandro Sanz and Albert Oderzo are among those who have signed the letter.

The petition can be found here: http://www.makeinternetfair.eu