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May 26, 2009 7:52 pm
The EU took a step towards creating a pan-European music licensing system on Tuesday, after the body with the job of of collecting artist royalties in France agreed to allow similar organisations elsewhere to license its catalogue.
Neelie Kroes, EU competition commissioner, said she had received assurances from SACEM, which collects royalties for about 128,000 artists in France, that it would be willing to drop territorial restrictions and allow national counterparts to license its repertoire.
EMI has said it is also willing to license its music to rights managers across Europe, while Apple has confirmed it would offer music tracks to all European customers if it were able to license EU-wide rights. Apple currently does not allow European users to buy from iTunes online stores outside their country of residence.
”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 ,” Ms Kroes said.
She added that if pan-Europe licensing became a reality, Apple, which controls slightly more than half of global digital music sales through iTunes, might look at broadening access to the system.
”If iTunes was readily able to license rights on a multi-territorial basis from publishers and collecting societies, it would consider making its content available to all European consumers.”
Ms Kroes’ comments were greeted cautiously by leading European broadcasters, including RTL, which has been complaining for almost a decade about territorial restrictions on music licences.
Last year, after the broadcaster took its case to the European Commission, Ms Kroes declared that certain reciprocal arrangements between national royalty-collecting groups were anti-competitive. That decision is now being appealed by collecting societies in the European courts in Luxembourg.
RTL said it welcomed the latest statement from Ms Kroes but added: “Although the European Commission last July ordered the national collecting societies to open up their national markets for competition, we have not seen any evidence that the societies are willing to let new licensing models emerge.
“We therefore hope that the statements made by Sacem will now be put into action by the full implementation of the Commission’s decision.”
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