The Bee Gees' Robin Gibb has appealed to European regulators not to break up the network of collecting societies that gather royalties for recording artists.

The Bee Gees' Robin Gibb has appealed to European regulators not to break up the network of collecting societies that gather royalties for recording artists.

He said any attempt to end their contract network system would be devastating for writers, composers and recording artists. "As songwriters, these are projects we would not have undertaken if we had not known we would be remunerated through the collection societies and their reciprocal agreements," he said.

Gibb was speaking at a three-day hearing in Brussels that ended Friday (June 16) into whether collecting societies breach European Union antitrust rules. The hearing was organized by the European Commission -- the EU's executive body -- as part of its wider investigation into the way collecting societies gather royalties for artists from Internet services and through satellite and cable broadcasting.

Gibb said the societies were unfairly portrayed as abusive faceless monopolies. "Rather, societies are non-profit making associations which are in a position of trust vis-à-vis their members. Such societies have been set up and are run by composers, authors and publishers for the benefit of composers, authors and publishers," he said.

Gibb told the meeting that performers and composers depended on collecting societies to organize the complex royalty process that involves licensing to broadcasters, filmmakers, bars, discos and other users, in countries around the world.

He also accused the Commission of taking a narrow approach to a complex issue. "This will inevitably lead to a decline in creators' remuneration and a serious block to creativity across the EU," he said.

Gibb also warned of what might happen if collecting societies were fined. "Any fines imposed by the Commission will not be absorbed by some amorphous multi-national with large financial reserves," he said. "Every Euro taken from a collection society will be one Euro taken from an individual artist. As a creator myself, I find it repugnant that any fines imposed on CISAC and its members will have to be paid by those creators whose interests the Commission says it is seeking to promote."

In February, the Commission said its preliminary probe into the agreements among collecting societies suggested that the current rules effectively amounted to a monopoly. The main target of the investigation is the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC) and its member agencies in EU countries that collect royalty payments.

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