In a significant development which could help shape licensing in the online age, Britain's Music Publisher's Assn. and MCPS-PRS Alliance have launched a one-stop pan-European digital licensing template.

The MPA and Alliance used the platform of the Midem trade fair, which opens its doors this morning (Jan. 21) in Cannes, to unveil the initiative.

With effect from today, music publishers can use the template to appoint the Alliance as an agent to license on their behalf online and mobile rights on a pan-European basis.

The London-based MPA recently informed its membership of the opt-in template deal by way of a letter. In it, the trade association explained, "We 'tested' a series of collection societies across Europe to see whether they had the vision, appetite, capability, resources and competitive edge to manage collective rights on a European scale. On balance we believe that the Alliance is the right partner for the MPA and its members."

London specialist entertainment and media law firm Swan Turton helped to negotiate the template deal.

Almost a year in the making, the offering is created to simplify the process of licensing across Europe for both music publishers and music users, and save music publishers time and money.

"The vision is that your rights will be licensed directly to users across Europe on terms over which you will have indirect control so that maximum royalties will flow back to you at a lower commission and with accelerated and transparent accounting."

All music publishers can sign up to the template agreement, Stephen Navin, CEO of the MPA, tells Billboard.biz.

"It's going to take a matter of time," he says. "Setting up a copyright licensing structure on a massive scale is complicated. This is a step, but an important step."

In a statement, Alliance managing director Steve Porter notes, "The contract we have developed together supports our aim to improve services for members and music users and supports the European Commission's plans for simplified online licensing across Europe."

The move comes a year after the Alliance, German authors right society GEMA and publishing giant EMI Music Publishing unveiled at Midem 2006 a separate, groundbreaking online licensing solution.