The European Commission said today (Aug. 17) it has launched a public consultation on the plans by Dutch royalty collecting society BUMA and its Belgian counterpart SABAM to scrap online music licensi

The European Commission said today (Aug. 17) it has launched a public consultation on the plans by Dutch royalty collecting society BUMA and its Belgian counterpart SABAM to scrap online music licensing restrictions.

It comes more than a year after the commission -- the European Union's executive -- issued a "Statement of Objections" in which it notified 16 collecting societies that they were potentially breaking competition rules by extending their national monopolies into the online space.

According to the commission, BUMA and SABAM have agreed not to commit to any agreement containing an "economic residency clause" that would confine copyright holders to a collecting society from their national territory.

As previously reported, the commission is backing a single EU-wide copyright licensing scheme for Internet music services rather than one for each national territory in the 25 EU countries. In July, it called for Europe's licensing and royalty collecting systems for online music to be simplified, claiming that the strict rules that govern the current system was stifling the growth of Web-based music services.

"Online distribution brings many benefits to artists and to consumers," EU competition commissioner Neelie Kroes said in a statement issued today. "I am committed to ensuring that the licensing system does not hamper the development of a genuine European single market between collecting societies to the benefit of these artists and consumers."

Representatives from BUMA and SABAM could not be reached for comment.

The commission has said that it suspects that the so-called "Santiago Agreement" between collecting societies potentially breaks EU competition rules. The agreement aims to allow each of the participating societies to grant to online commercial users "one-stop shop" copyright licenses which cover the music repertoires of all societies and which are valid in all their territories.

The Commission says it is continuing dialog with the other collecting societies, which included Britain's PRS, France's SACEM and Germany's GEMA.