The European Commission has released a new draft directive aimed at regulating the music collecting societies. It follows several years of effort by the Commission, in which it tried out various initiatives, all of which failed to reduce the domination of the collecting societies or stop their bad behaviour. The new directive tries to make them more
accountable to the musicians who rely on them for income, and to improve the licencing of music for online services.
Whether it will succeed is of course quite another matter. The first hurdle for the new directive is the scrutiny it will undergo in the European Parliament.
The Commission’s proposal has the unwieldy title of “directive on collective management of copyright and related rights and multi-territorial licensing of rights in musical works for online uses in the internal market “
It is a long document and there is an accompanying impact assessment, and in 24 hours I have only been able to superficially read them. What I can see is that the Commission proposes detailed regulation of the collecting society administration process.
The Commission wants to put in place a system that codifies the governance of collecting societies as well as the way they manage and distribute revenue.
The collecting societies will have to be more accountable for the money they collect and pay out. They will have to put in place systems to manage that process, including computerised databases. They will have to become more transparent to their members and to their customers.
On the surface, this looks like a good move. Anyone who has seen the appalling accounting of some of these societies, is likely to welcome it. On the other hand, it will only work if the Commission puts in place a tough regulatory body to oversee it.
For the licencing of music, the European Commission has come up with a proposal that it calls the European Licencing Passport. The aim of the Passport is to facilitate licencing of music for online services, and to address the problem that exists currently for licencing music across several different countries. However, it is not clear to me yet what this passport idea actually means. The official statement says that the Licencing Passport
"would lead to the aggregation of repertoires in licensing entities and allow all societies to license their repertoire on a multi-territory basis through such entities".
The Commission rejected the idea of a centralised portal for licencing. This would seem to put the British position at odds with the EU position. In Britain, the possibility of centralised rights-management database is under consideration, post-Hargreaves. The Commission says that a central portal raises concerns under competition law.
The Commission has also rejected the idea that rights-holders can negotiate directly with users. I think this knocks out ventures by EMI and other recorded music companies who have tried to do that.
The Commission’s choice of instrument – a directive - means that member states have to implement it and can be fined if they don’t. . The existing ‘Recommendation for music online’ is optional and that is the reason why it did not work.
The directive will need to be carefully examined to see which interests it really protects, noting that the head of unit preparing the directive is Maria Martin Prat, who has previously worked for the IFPI.
The European Parliament’s rapporteur will be Marielle Gallo, whose position supporting the copyright industries is well known. This directive may give her the chance to really support musicians and help them get accountability for royalties – and Mrs Gallo, who is also a published author, should understand what that means in practice.
This is an original article from Iptegrity.com. You may re-publish it under a Creative Commons licence, but you should cite my name and provide a link back to iptegrity.com. Media and Academics – please cite as Monica Horten, EU aims to bring music collecting societies into line, in www.iptegrity.com, 12th July 2012 . Commercial users - please contact me.