The European Commission announced yesterday that it wants to give a boot up the backside of the European market for online music services by making it easier for new providers to get licences to flog songs over the Internet.
If all goes to plan, it will get rid of pesky restrictions which prevent bargain-hunting Belgium’s and hussling Hungarians from buying cheapo downloads elsewhere due to current laws stopping companies offering EU-wide services.
Clipboard-toting investigators from the EC identified the hassle that companies face in getting licences to offer music across the whole of Europe, as the main obstacle to the growth of legal online music services.
Presently, online music providers have to laboriously apply for licences in each and every one of the 25 member EU states, and then deal individually with collecting societies charged with securing royalties for artists and music firms.
Internal market commissioner Charlie MacCreevy said: “The absence of pan-European copyright licences made it difficult for the new European-based services to take off. This is why we are proposing the creation of Europe-wide copyright clearance.”
The European Commission’s study argues that entirely new structures for cross-border management of copyrights were needed, concluding that this could be best achieved by letting artists and content providers to choose a collecting society to manage their copyrighted work across the whole of the EU.
With the Commission cheesed off with collecting societies basking in actual or effective monopolies in many EU member states, the new measures would increase earnings for copyright holders by lowering administrative costs and allowing the most efficient societies to compete for artists.
A proposal from the Commission aimed at abolishing the current situation where copyright holders are compelled to register with their national collecting society is expected in the third quarter.
Lucy Cronin, executive director of the European Digital Media Association (EDIMA) was as pleased as Punch with the initiative: “After years of toil, we’re pleased that the Commission has recognised the problem in the online music licensing regime.”
“The current system, based on national licensing and collecting societies, is no longer appropriate for digital services” she added.
Cronin felt that this new legislation could also benefit consumers, with an increase in pan-European licences increasing the amount of downloadable music available, as copyright holders look to exploit larger markets.
With the IT industry arguing that sales have been held back by the lack of a simple, one-stop online licensing system, online music sales in Europe remain miserably small compared to our American cousins – €28m (~£19,1m, $33.3m compared to the whopping great €207m (~£142m, ~$246m) US trade.