European Commissioner Michel Barnier is to send a new copyright law to the European Parliament next month. The law is aimed at regulating the music collecting societies. It will be followed in September by a proposal on enforcement. The timetable was revealed by Barnier’s deputy chef de cabinet, Kerstin Jorna, at a conference organised by the German collecting society, GEMA. What is curious is the Commission’s optimism about getting these two initiatives adopted by sometime next year.
Details of the conference discussion - called ‘Lost Property, the future of collective rights management in the European Union’' - have just emerged. It was held by GEMA at the Midem music fest in January. Ms Jorna, a career civil servant and newcomer to the Internet copyright debate, was on the panel, along with collecting society stalwarts from not only GEMA, but STIM in Sweden.
The new law to be presented in April will deal with the business management functions of the collecting societies. It will impose obligations on them to in respect of audit trails and reporting. The aim is to improve their efficiency. From what can be gathered, it sounds ass though the Commission wants to create a more competitive market-place too. This is something which the collecting societies have been resisting for years, and the provisions will require careful analysis.
Such a law should perform a much needed function to ease the way for new online music business models. However, it is not clear how the Commission proposes to handle multi-territory rights and whether there will be any real improvement from the viewpoint of online businesses which want to sell or stream music.
It was also revealed that the Commission is linking the new law for collecting societies to the IPR enforcement directive (IPRED). Speaking about the collecting society proposal, Ms Jorna said “we hope a consensus will emerge towards 2013”, adding that “the same applies to the text on enforcement […] of course, there are links between the two files”.
This is dangerous territory for the Commission, as such linkage could give the rights-holders an unfair leverage over the outcome.
It should not be forgotten that Commissioner Barnier is French and has been consistently pushing the copyright agenda desired by President Sarkozy.
In any event, the effectiveness of the collecting society measures will be determined not only by what the Commission drafts, but by the changes that could be slipped in as it passes through the European Parliament. To say the Commission is being optimistic is an understatement – dreaming might be a better word.
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