Collective Licensing Breakthrough For Aussie Indies

Australia's independent labels are celebrating a decision down under that allows indies to jointly offer licenses to broadcasters who air their artists' music clips.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said earlier this month it had "not objected" to collective bargaining notifications lodged four weeks earlier by independent labels' body AIR.

"This development could be a great thing for us, and for the independent sector," says Shock Group managing director and AIR board member Marcus Seal.

"It's really good news for us," adds fellow AIR board member Jaddan Comerford, founder of Melbourne-based indie Boomtown Records.

The development paves the way for Melbourne-based AIR's members to collectively negotiate with the likes of MTV Networks, Telstra, Optus, BigPond, Austar, Foxtel, XYZ Networks and Fuel TV, without fear of breaking competition provisions outlined in the Trade Practices Act 1974.

"For us it's also an evolution for the organization," notes AIR CEO Stu Watters "because it gives us the opportunity to test the waters to see how effective we can be in terms of netting some commercial returns for those that participated in this action."

The ACCC's decision was the result of a "lengthy process" between both parties,
Watters notes. "Once we get through this," he adds, "it will probably open up a couple of other opportunities to establish that sort of immunity on collective bargaining for other targets. It's definitely something worth celebrating."

With the commission's decision, ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel indicated a strong affinity for small creative companies and the challenges they face.

"This process offers a more affordable and streamlined approach for small business to gain approval to get together to collectively bargain with a larger supplier or acquirer of goods and services," Samuel stated.

"Currently some AIR members enter into individual licenses with some users in relation to the broadcast of music videos. However, for many AIR members the transaction costs involved make direct licensing uneconomical," he explained. "As a result many, particularly smaller, independent record labels do not currently receive a fee from some users when their music videos are broadcast."

The notifications protect participants from legal action for three years, with effect from Jan. 12, and may be reviewed at a later stage.

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