New EU law could open the door for more online music

Harmonized laws on collective copyright management could lead to a surge in music offerings in EU

European Union music lovers may soon have more ways to buy music online, thanks to a draft law approved by the European Parliament's legal affairs committee on Tuesday.

The committee unanimously adopted planned new rules on collective management of copyright. According to the politicians, the rules would let online music service providers such as Spotify, iTunes and Amazon get licenses more easily and musicians receive royalties more quickly, enabling consumers to enjoy a wider range of music online.

"Simple and transparent licensing of copyright means more legal offers and easier access to online content for consumers," said Marielle Gallo, the member of the European Parliament (MEP) who led the committee evaluation of the text.

Current E.U. rules on copyright are fragmented and online music providers often have to deal with authors' collective management organizations in each E.U. member state individually. Under the proposed law, providers could obtain licenses from a small number of such organizations operating across E.U. borders.

"This is crucial for right holders, the authors and artists, who have a right to expect accurate and timely payments from their collecting societies. But it will also benefit the internal market and the cultural sector as a whole" said Pirate Party MEP Christian Engström in a prepared statement. "Many online music providers, such as iTunes and Spotify, deal with collecting societies and these new legislative proposals will facilitate their ability to provide music to consumers throughout Europe."

MEPs also passed an amendment to ensure that smaller and less popular repertoires also have access to the market by requiring collect organizations to issue licenses under the same conditions for all repertoires. They also cut the deadline for paying artists from 12 months to three months from the end of the financial year in which the rights revenue was collected.

The European Grouping of Societies of Authors and Composers (GESAC), which represents more than 800,000 artists in Europe across a range of sectors including music, said that it was broadly pleased with the text so far.

"The commercial entities that have similar activities as the authors societies -- which are non-for profit organisations -- will be subject to the application of some of the provision of the directive helping to create a more level playing field," said GESAC general manager Véronique Desbrosses.

"On the other hand, by opening the door to external lawyers and agents into the general meetings of authors societies, the European Parliament distorts the specificities of those societies that are formed, controlled and managed by the authors themselves. We urge the E.U. institutions to restore and guarantee the central role of creators in decision making of their societies," she said.

More than 60 percent, or €4.6 billion (US$5.9 billion), of total rights holders' remuneration collected in the world by authors' societies is from the E.U.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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