The Closing of the Net  "original and valuable"  Times Higher Education

Eight years after the EU first began working on music online, the European Parliament this morning  adopted a new directive to regulate music collecting societies. MEPs came to a  political agreement that the transparency and administration of collecting societies should be regulated in order to improve the flow of money to artists. They also recognised that  cross-border licencing had to be addressed in order to enable pan-European online music services.

This is the Collective Rights Management directive, which, if it works as intended, will radically overhaul the collecting societies. MEPs found that collecting societies in their current form, frequently demonstrate poor cash management and fail to account propertly to artists. Some, as noted in the Parliament, have been hauled up for corrupt practices (see for example Spanish police raid copyright society in fraud probe ). 

 On that basis the new directive provides rules for the internal and inter-organisational administration of the collecting societies, with the aim of facilitating faster and more accurate payments to artists. 

At the same time, the new directive is intended to regulate how collecting societies deal with their commercial clients which include online  music service providers. This is important because of key role of collecting societies, frequently overlooked, is that of gatekeeper. Without their co-operation, it is difficult if not impossible for online content providers to offer  music.

 In that context, cross-border licencing in Europe has been a particular problem. Currently, anyone wanting to offer music legally, has to deal with 28 separate collecting societies in each member state. This is clearly impossible, especially when the evidence shows that some do not even know what repertoire they represent. The new directive is intended to address that issue, by making it possible for artists and clients to deal just with one single collective rights management organisation (as the collecting societies will now be known).

 The rapporteur on the Collective Rights Management directive was the French MEP Marielle Gallo, known for her rights-holder sympathies. However, in this instance, MEPs came together on this directive because all recognised the problem of poor management within collecting societies and the need to do something about it. This created a common ground on which  all – EPP, Socialists, Liberals, Greens, ECR and  the Pirate Party - were able to agree. Mrs Gallo rather understated things when she said this was "‘excellent co-operation" on such a “sensitive issue”. Quite an astonishing feat. Let's hope it works.

 This is an original article from and reflects research that I have carried out. If you refer to it or to its content, please cite my name as the author, and provide a link back to Media and Academics – please cite as Monica Horten, 2014, Europarl comes together on music licencing,  in  4 February 2014. Commercial users - please contact me.

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