EU urges music industry to change online rights

Written by Tim Smalley

May 26, 2009 // 2:55 p.m.

Tags: #antitrust #commission #distribution #eu #europe #european #industry #itunes #licensing #music #online #regulators #royalties

European Commission antitrust regulators have told the music industry that it needs to quickly change its licensing terms that currently prevent online music stores, like iTunes, from offering the same songs for sale across the continent.

The Commission says that online music sales in Europe lag behind those in the US because licensing is handled separately in each country, meaning that online stores are unable to introduce one store and pricing model that caters for all European countries.

Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: “There is a clear willingness expressed by major players in the online distribution of music in Europe to tackle the many barriers which prevent consumers from fully benefiting from the opportunities that the Internet provides.

Kroes said that regulators’ talks with EMI and French music copyright group SACEM had been promising and both were now willing to license their music across Europe, but urged the industry as a whole “to move quickly to adapt their licensing solutions to the online environment.” She added that regulators will be reviewing progress, which suggests that the EU is considering action against rights holders if they don’t offer more flexible licensing terms.

Last July, the Commission found 24 European collecting societies – music publishers and copyright groups – guilty of breaking EU antitrust rules, but interestingly didn’t impose any fines at the time.

Apple has also said it would be willing to offer the music it sells to all European customers if it could obtain EU-wide rights for it, but some artists have complained that they may lose out on royalties from increased sales if current licensing agreements are changed.

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