EU boosts online music stores

European regulators this morning ordered music rights collection societies across all its member states to abandon the existing territorial framework under which they operate.
Regulators believe the network that exists to run foul of the one market aim of the EU, and also say it is holding back development of Europe’s online music market. As it stands, online music services such as eMusic or iTunes are forced to negotiate distribution rights on a per-country basis, going through whatever local hoops exist to secure permission, and being required to sell songs through a dedicated store for that country.
That last part – the dissonant song selling environment – means a European consumer is unable to shop across European music stores to secure the best available price – they can’t shop online for music in stores that serve any country other than the one they are in. This is clearly not the way the European market is meant to work.
The Commission now wants rights collection societies to set up a system in which digital music operators can secure a single license to sell songs across Europe, which will facilitate new online stores. The EU also wants rights societies to have to compete with each other, rather than the current situation where each holds a monopoly in its own country.
The decision goes against a relatively high profile campaign by musicians and rights societies in which they declared a pan-European license would impact their earnings. However, European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said the deal could “benefit cultural diversity by encouraging collecting societies to offer composers and lyricists a better deal in terms of collecting the money to which they are entitled”. Artists will be able to choose which society they allow to manage their rights, she pointed out, and will likely opt for the most artist-friendly societies which offer the best deals.

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