EU warns music industry over copyright reform: Get on with it

EU Comissioner Neelie Kroes has warned the music industry that copyright licensing needs to be reformed, allowing online distributors to sell across the continent. And she wants it done yesterday

EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes has warned the music industry to belt up on copyright licensing, the Associated Press is reporting.

Kroes suggested that online distributors are showing "a clear willingness... to tackle the many barriers which prevent consumers from fully benefiting from the opportunities that the Internet provides" and said she would review progress made by publishers and music copyright groups.

Presently, copyright licensing is administered by separate agencies in each European country. This means online download stores have to establish separate stores in each country, each with their own separate copyright licences. It's been nearly a year since the EC ruled that 24 members of CISAC, the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers, was in breach of EU antitrust laws and has to change. Today's broadside is is aimed at injecting a little hustle into proceedings.

Online sales of music in Europe aren't as big as in the States, with iTunes and the like held back by the inability to build one store for the entire continent. The existing divides are pretty daft: there are no borders on the Web, so it annoys the pâtisserie out of us when we're confronted by messages like the one pictured above. The Internet is one of the chief engines of globalisation, yet music and TV and other copyrighted content is often walled off. That's why we can't watch Hulu, for example, and Johnny Foreigner can't use iPlayer.


We can understand this malarkey in TV, because of the medium's roots in geographically specific one-off broadcast, but timeshifting on the Web is changing that. And music has never had those qualities.

Copyright licensing is a licence to print money: copyright is sold for different locales in order for the holders to sell the same licence over and over again in each country, rather than just selling one licence for the whole continent. That's a fair chunk of change that copyright managers -- and ultimately, artists, because you can bet it'll be the musicians getting the short end of the stick -- stand to lose out on. Still, if iTunes and the like get a Europe-wide store, the increase in sales could offset that.

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