European Commission takes down barriers to European copyright licence

For the moment it is nearly impossible to clear your copyrights obligations across Europe if you are an European broadcaster or mediacompany. Each country has its own monopolized Copyrightlicence imposing authority and each of those countries have different prices and rules and procedures which makes it a totally impossible task to manage if those companies want to stay at the right side of the law across Europe. The European Commission has understood the situation and has taken a decision that will revolutionize the European copyrightlicensing marketplace. Every organisation can compete in all the other European countries for marketshare and no artist or copyright owner can be obliged to stay with the national organisation (but probably no one can afford to stay national or not to enter in some kind of network or cooperation with other agencies).

The Commission's decision recognises the valuable role of collecting societies and does not challenge the existence of the reciprocal representation agreements. It does, however, prohibit certain aspects of those agreements as well as concerted practices among collecting societies.

In particular the decision requires the 24 EEA-based collecting societies which are members of CISAC to no longer apply:

  • the membership clause, currently applied by 23 collecting societies, that prevents an author from choosing or moving to another collecting society.
  • territorial restrictions that prevent a collecting society from offering licences to commercial users outside their domestic territory. These territorial restrictions include an exclusivity clause, currently contained in the contracts of 17 EEA collecting societies, by which a collecting society authorises another collecting society to administer its repertoire on a given territory on an exclusive basis and a concerted practice among all collecting societies resulting in a strict segmentation of the market on a national basis. The effect for a commercial user such as RTL or Music Choice that wants to offer a pan-European media service is that it cannot receive a licence which covers several Member States, but has to negotiate with each individual national collecting society.

The decision will allow collecting societies to compete on the quality of their services and on the level of their administrative costs (which are deducted from the money collected before it is passed on to the author). It will thus provide incentives to collecting societies to improve their efficiency.  source

But this will only be a solution if this doesn't lead to a splintering of the market which would result in an even more confusing and paperproducing mosaic of rightholders. Imagine the work a transnational media would have to do just to try to pay all the rights to all the artists in all of the countries they are distributed. This won't work if their is no European database which indicates for each artist the right copyright office according to the country. This doesn't seem too difficult.

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