Apple shares its iTunes Eurovision

Online Commerce RoundtableApple may start selling digital music through the iTunes Store across all 27 European Union nations, so long as it can obtain the required licensing rights from publishers and music royalty collecting societies.

The news is revealed within a series of documents published by the European Union today, following last year’s historic European meeting on pan-European music licensing rights.

European Commissioner for Competition Neelie Kroes has welcomed progress made towards pan-European music licensing following discussions in the Online Commerce Roundtable.

In particular, she welcomes confirmation by French collecting society SACEM that it is willing, in principle, 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 also welcomed confirmation by multinational record company EMI that it is ready to entrust rights managers to offer its repertoire for the whole European Economic Area (EEA) and notes Apple’s statements 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.

The report on the Roundtable, just published on the Europa website, outlines the conclusions of the meeting that Commissioner Kroes hosted on 17 September 2008, as well as of a 16 December 2008 follow-up meeting which focused on the distribution of online music.

Kroes observed: “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. 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”.

At the September Roundtable, all participants recognised the potential for Europe-wide music licensing in the online environment, and that this was hindered by rights generally being territorial and usually licensed for certain territories only.

Currently, it’s impossible for consumers in some countries, such as Poland, Bulgaria and Slovenia, to buy digital music from any iTunes store in Europe.

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