Composer and performer groups have backed the provisional deal CISAC agreed with the European Commission to reform the way royalties are collected.

However, the plans are being vigorously opposed by media and telecom giants, who say the changes will complicate an already complex system.

The European Composer and Songwriter Alliance (ECSA) has said it welcomes the commitments, saying they will allow composers to select the collecting society best placed to represent their interests. "The advantage of these commitments is that they promise to bring significant benefits to commercial users of music in a way that preserves the value of our music and our choice of collecting society," said ECSA elected spokesman David Ferguson.

ESCA -- which includes composer and songwriter groups from 22 European countries -- said the CISAC proposal would allow users to seek multi-territorial licences for Internet, satellite and cable services. "Collecting societies are our agents. You don't appoint several different agents to see who will sell your assets for the cheapest price. To do so would be absurd and would have a devastating impact on the livelihoods of individual composers and on cultural diversity," said Ferguson, who is also chairman of the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters.

ESCA's position was echoed by performing artists' organization GIART. "The main objective of collective management societies is to be efficient and fair," said GIART managing director Francesca Greco. "Therefore we are in favor of an equilibrium between big and small right-holders. Collecting societies must protect and represent the interests of all their members. The system of the reciprocal representation agreements has proved to be successful for decades and has provided one-stop-shops to users in an efficient way."

But the CISAC concessions were rejected by a coalition of media and telecom groups that includes RTL Group, Pro Sieben Sat.1, commercial television association ACTE, Cable Europe, as well as Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom, Orange and Music Choice.

The coalition said the plans by collecting societies to reform royalty collection would lead to a "costly, inefficient and fragmented licensing system for music rights." In a letter to European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso and EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes, the 27 companies and associations said CISAC's plans "would undermine the current system of licensing the global music repertoire as a single package...which would result in regional and national linguistic repertoires either not being played or paid."

CISAC's offer came after the Commission began investigating the licensing arrangements and found that CISAC was operating a de facto monopoly for collecting societies to gather royalties for artists. It singled out the membership restrictions obliging authors to transfer their rights only to their own national collecting society.

The CISAC commitments, signed by 18 European authors' societies, were submitted earlier this year. If accepted, they would grant multi-territorial licenses for performing rights over the Internet, satellite and cable, end the exclusivity clause from its model contract, and allow European creators and publishers to move freely between authors' societies.

But instead of clearing the commitments, the Commission appealed to the entertainment sector and other players involved in copyright for comment on provisional deal.

CISAC Communications Director Marianne Rollet said she would not comment on the issue while the Commission was still examining the proposal.

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