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European Commission debate on improving collective rights management in the European Union

On April 23, 2010 the European Commission is planning a Public Hearing on the Governance of Collective Rights Management in the EU. The aim of this hearing is to explore how the relationships between copyright owners, collecting societies and commercial users of copyright have evolved over time and how these can be improved in the coming years.

The motive for this public hearing is the “Commission Recommendation of 18 May 2005 on collective cross-border management of copyright and related rights for legitimate online music services (2005/737/EC)”. This recommendation puts forward measures for improving the EU-wide licensing of copyright for online music services.

According to the Commission improvements in this area are necessary because new Internet-based services such as webcasting or on on-demand music downloads are in need of license that covers their activities throughout the EU. The absence of EU-wide copyright licenses has been one factor that has made it difficult for new Internet-based music services to develop their full potential. According to the Commission the absence of pan-European copyright licenses makes it difficult for the new Internet-based services to take off.

Furthermore the Commission believes that there should be competition between collecting societies to the benefit of companies that offer music on the Internet and to consumers that listen to it.  This is because the current cross-licensing arrangements that the collecting societies have between themselves lead to an effective lock up of national territories, transposing into the Internet the national monopolies the societies have traditionally held in the offline world.

The Commission will also look at the internal functioning of European collecting societies because it appears that royalties are not always distributed to right-holders across national borders and distribution does not always reflect actual use made of their work in other territories.

According to the recommendation of the EU Commission the main obstacles to the growth and availability of Internet-based services in the EU have to be removed by:
(1) Introducing effective models for cross-border licensing of copyright-protected content in the online environment; and
(2) Introducing effective models for cross-border distribution of royalties in both the online and the off-line environments.

In order to achieve this, the EU Commission is basically considering 3 options;
(1) Do nothing (and leave it to the market to overcome the obstacles)
(2) Suggest ways in which cross-border cooperation between national collecting societies in the 25 Member States can be improved; or
(3) Give right-holders the choice to authorise one single collecting society to license and monitor all the different uses made of their works across the entire EU.

At the moment the large part of the EU Commission is in favor of option 3.

The hearing is scheduled to take place on April 23, 2010 in Brussels.
The hearing shall be streamed on the Internet, please visit: : http://scic.ec.europa.eu/str/index.php?sessionno=852

For more information and the EU recommondation please visit: http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/copyright/management/management_en.htm#report

More news to follow soon, so stay tuned!