Plan called inadequate.

Plans for a one-stop-shop for licenses for online music services in the European Union have been slammed by Members of the European Parliament (MEP) as inadequate from a legal as well as a cultural and political view.

During an ongoing parliamentary debate this week, the MEP criticized the European Commission’s initiative to overhaul the royalties-collection system. They argued that the initiative effectively treated music rights as a mere commodity.

"Music and intellectual property, with the composer's rights, are important parts of cultural diversity within the EU,” said German MEP Doris Pack, coordinator in the Parliament's Culture Committee. “The Commission's recommendation does not take this fact sufficiently into account.”

Hans-Peter Mayer, from the Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs, criticized the Commission for failing to offer any legal clarity for producers and consumers of music. “The Commission recommendation leaves too many options open, instead of caring for the rights of artists, publishers and consumers in a faster, better and more effective manner,” he said.

Former MEP and Greek singing icon Nana Mouskouri added that the Commission had foisted the policy on the music sector. "I do not understand how an EU directive on music can be put forward without any consultation of artists and composers,” she said. "There is so much Anglo-Saxon product out there. The EU has cultural and linguistic diversity that we have to protect from homogenization by an almost entirely American musical product."

The MEPs noted that the Commission had adopted the policy as a recommendation, traditionally the weakest form of EU rule-making and not legally binding. “However, this is not a reason not to be concerned,” Mayer said.

The Commission, the EU's executive authority, last year adopted a policy giving right-holders and commercial users of copyright-protected works a choice of their preferred means of licensing music in the European online market.

The new rules scrap territorial restrictions provisions in existing licensing contracts, while leaving right-holders the option to tender their repertoire for EU-wide direct licensing.

The Commission says the new rules are essential as the complicated bureaucratic system, involving national societies in the EU’s 25 states, is impeding the growth of Web-based music services such as Apple's iTunes Music Store and Yahoo! Music.

The plan applies only to services provided on the Internet, such as simulcasting, webcasting, streaming, downloading or an online ‘on-demand’ service and music services provided to mobile telephones.

In response to the Commission’s new rules, collecting societies say that performers, composers and artists are reluctant to see the traditional structure change as it had been remarkably successful in compensating them despite the logistical challenges.