Authors' rights groups have given mixed receptions to the European Commission's impact study into cross-border collective licensing.

BRUSSELS -- Authors' rights groups have given mixed receptions to the European Commission's impact study into cross-border collective licensing.

As expected, the Commission -- the European Union's executive authority -- on July 7 published a controversial paper that suggests relaxing the inflexible membership rules that collecting societies have with musicians and writers.

In its document, the EC concluded that the absence of EU-wide copyright licenses for online content services hindered the development of the digital music environment. The Commission proposed a new rights management structure for the use of music online, which would allow rights holders to choose a collecting society outside their national territories for EU-wide licensing.

Authors' rights umbrella body British Music Rights applauded the EC's examination of the market. "There is no question that it makes sense to streamline the licensing of online services," says Emma Pike, director general of the London-based trade body. "Any course of action must ensure that [copyright owners] receive fair reward for their work and that any competition introduced between societies is geared towards maximizing efficiency and transparency in the services they receive from societies."

European authors' rights societies' body GESAC, however, criticized the Commission's draft plans. "We question the effectiveness of the proposed system in terms of simplifying the acquisition of rights for the use of music on the Internet. Moreover, the consequences as regards legal security and the economic costs involved in this proposal must also be examined."

The International Music Publishers Assn. has long called for more openness in the European system. While backing collective management, IMPA says authors and musicians should be entitled to manage their rights individually. "There is no reason why in principle a collecting society should have a monopoly on a given territory," IMPA said in a position paper on the issue.

Interested parties have three weeks to comment on the document. The Commission has already heard from 107 organizations and groups on the issue, and will compile their comments over the next few weeks before making a formal proposal for EU governments in October.

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