Europe acts on music copyright

13 Oct 2005

EC to encourage the use of Europe wide rights deals for music downloads

The European Commission today adopted a recommendation on the management of online rights in musical works. The recommendation puts forward measures for improving the EU-wide licensing of copyright for online services.

The changes are necessary with the advent of legal music downloads services such as iTunes. Traditionally, music rights are negotiated on a per country basis. However, download services on the Internet have opened a can of worms whereby people can download from anywhere in the world. As part of the move towards a single market, the European Commission has recommended what it hopes will lead towards a single licence and drive the creation of better services.

The EC examined whether to either encourage cooperation among the various European collecting societies by allowing each society in the EU to grant an EU-wide license covering the other societies' repertoires or to allow individual right-holders the option to appoint a collective rights manager for the online use of their musical works across the entire EU.

After consultation the EC found, not unsurprisingly, that commercial users and most collective rights managers wanted a deal which allowed them to cut an EU wide licence among themselves while the independent record labels favoured the option of appointing their own rights manager.

Equally unsurprisingly, the EC decided to recommend both. Copyright holders and commercial users of copyright-protected material should be given a choice as to their preferred model of licensing. It will encourage the development of pan-European licences among the big collecting societies while allowing right-holders who do not wish to make use of those contracts the chance to make their own deals for EU-wide direct licensing.

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