Neelie Kroes, European commissioner for competition, has welcomed progress towards pan-European digital licensing solutions, including agreement by French collecting society SACEM that it will cooperate on such arrangements.

The antitrust issue was discussed and reported on by the online commerce roundtable, set up by Kroes in September 2008. Participants in the discussions in Brussels included EMI Music Publishing CEO and chairman Roger Faxon, Sir Mick Jagger, Apple's CEO Steve Jobs and Bernard Miyet, SACEM chairman and CEO.

Following the discussions, SACEM has said it is willing to entrust other collecting societies with pan-European licensing of its repertoire and to act as non-exclusive rights manager for publishers and other collecting societies.

Kroes has also welcomed confirmation by EMI Music Publishing that it is ready to entrust rights managers to offer its repertoire for the whole European Economic Area - as long as standards for licensing and administration are comparable.

In response to the report today (May 26), Warner/Chappell Music stressed that it already operates its pan-European digital license (PEDL) initiative.

As part of the roundtable, Apple stated that if iTunes was readily able to license rights on a multi-territorial basis from publishers and collecting societies, it would consider making its content available to all European consumers, including those in EU countries where iTunes is currently not available.

"There is a clear willingness expressed by major players in the online distribution of music in Europe to tackle the many barriers which prevent consumers from fully benefiting from the opportunities that the Internet provides," said Kroes in a statement.

"I therefore encourage the major players, in particular publishers and collecting societies, to move quickly to adapt their licensing solutions to the online environment. I will review progress at the next meeting of the roundtable that I will organise shortly with other major players in the online music market".

Comments on online licensing are invited by June 30 as part of the consultation process.

The European Commission ruled against 24 European collecting societies in July 2008. CISAC, the global umbrella group for collecting societies, has been told to remove all obstacles impeding a pan-European performing rights licensing system following a long-running battle with regulators; the EC described it as an anti-trust decision prohibiting societies from restricting competition.

CISAC and individual societies have appealed the ruling, with authors and composers concerned that royalty rates will be driven down.