An Open Letter in Response to Jim Griffin's Comments Regarding WIPO's International Music Registry
It was with mixed feelings that I recently read Jim Griffins comments [ Billboard.biz, June 16] on the state of composition repertoire information and licensing in Europe and his efforts on behalf of an International Music Registry to represent unbiased and clear multi-territory rights owner information.
On one hand, he could not have been more correct. The absence of a consolidated data base of repertoire ownership, transparent and efficient licensing, invoicing systems and mandated paths to grant licenses to music services is definitely hampering the efforts by European licensing bodies such as STIM, The PRS, GEMA and SACEM (which have until recently been using their own unique and often conflicting repertoire ownership data). It is understandable that music service providers are often confused and frustrated and searching for relief.
However on the other hand I cannot understand why Jim, not being in the composition rights licensing value chain, would lobby WIPO to go through the daunting exercise of creating an International Music Registry in parallel with the reputable group of rights owners and music service providers that have been brought together to do just that by the European Competition Commission to develop and maintain a Global Repertoire Database (The GRD).
In 2008 the European Competition Commissioner started to organize an Online Commerce Roundtable comprised of music rights holders and rights managers, music service providers and consumer representatives. The membership of the Working Group included: Amazon, EMI Music Publishing, iTunes, Nokia, The PRS, SACEM and STIM.
As far as I have been able to ascertain no consultation with the above group was initiated by Jim or WIPO. If that is the case I would think even limited contact should have been made at least out of respect for the parties that had already made serious progress in an ongoing, complicated and dedicated effort. An effort that has produced a comprehensive RFI and RFP process that identified two key aspects moving forward:
1) That a much wider stakeholder governance and consultation process was needed.
2)And that ICE (the joint venture company between STIM and The PRS - created to offer multi-territorial time and right sensitive repertoire information) was in fact a technology platform that appeared appropriate for the task of creating a global repertoire database.
The GRD has since been expanded to include CISAC, ICMP and ECSA, bringing in vital experience from the wider society community, wider publisher community and perhaps most importantly, authors and creators themselves.
Furthermore Deloittes, which has recently successfully brought together what could be considered a companion database in the form of a multi-territory enabled master recordings database, has been engaged to enlist expertise (based on hands on experience) from a group of stakeholders to assess critical issues such as governance and finance, (see www.globalrepertoiredatabase.com <www.globalrepertoiredatabase.com> >). Deloittes has also been appointed to make a full due diligence on the ICE systems in order to determine their ability to provide a truly global, repertoire database.
In theory, Jim Griffin and WIPO are on the right track being pro-active in calling for the facilitation of the licensing process. But it is a shame that more research wasn't done before announcing the duplication of a project that already was underway, making progress and backed by the cornerstones of the music rights and music service provider community.
The almost incredible number of moving parts in a project of this size and scope demands that stakeholders be properly represented and respected. Cooperation is what is needed now, not unilateral posturing on what may be the creation of one of the most important initiatives in the history of rights licensing.
I would call on WIPO to quickly set aside their own efforts and acknowledge the GRD as the logical course of action. Surely we could all benefit from WIPO's experience, financial and political muscle and independence. With WIPO on board the GRD could accelerate the process of becoming a rights information epicenter that will benefit everyone in the value chain from creators through to consumers.