Wednesday 30 January 2013

Collective Management of Music Copyright Directive

While the internet and digital culture has changed the way we consume media, the internal market hasn't quite kept up. The Commission's approach to extending the internal market online is based on the Digital Agenda for Europe (PDF) and the Single Market Act (PDF), which show a greater emphasis on EU legislation to extend the internal market online. When it comes to online music services and the transparency of collecting societies, so far there has only been a non-binding recommendation (PDF) inviting the Member States to promote these goals, but now the Commission has introduced a draft Directive to tackle these issues (PDF).

On the transparency and accountability of collecting societies (that collect royalties and then distribute them to the artists after taking a cut), the directive would codify minimum requirements governing the membership and powers of the members, along with the societies' duties when performing their financial and negotiation roles (such as distributing income due to the artists without undue delay and requiring negotiations to be conducted in good faith) (Title II). The Directive is intended to shift the power balance in favour of the members by setting out reporting duties for the collecting societies - the idea being that a better informed membership will be equipped to demand better services and so improve the position of music artists.

The second pillar of the Directive introduces multi-territorial licences to break down barriers within the internal market (Title III). Currently music rights are granted on a territory-by-territory basis, which naturally gives raise to barriers in the market. The multi-territorial licences (MTLs) won't replace the current system, but they will be an extra option for collecting societies. Interestingly, the Directive provides for artists being able to by-pass their collecting society under certain circumstances (Article 30) if the collecting society does not grant MTLs in music rights. The rightholder will be then be able to grant licences for their own online rights either directly or through another intermediary. Clearly this is meant to free artists to exploit their work across the EU and boost the use of MTLs by ensuring that rights will not be bound up nationally because of the policy and power of collecting societies (or by their inability to process them or otherwise fulfil the MTL requirements).

One of the major concerns for the music industry is that this would promote the homogenisation of music across Europe. While it may intensify homogenisation, there is already a degree of globalisation and Europeanisation of music that it unlikely to diminish by maintaining some market barriers. Having MTLs could also open up more audiences for niche artists as well by making a wider variety of music available to consumers - after all, the internet can prove useful as a tool for band promotion.

Legislatively, the directive is still at the first reading stage in the European Parliament, with Marielle Gallo (EPP) working on as the rapporteur for the Legal Affairs committee. The EESC has delivered its (non-binding) opinion on the draft, which largely welcomes the draft in its current form.

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