Executive’s proposals seem rather consensual
By Nathalie Vandystadt | Wednesday 11 July 2012
The European Commission’s proposals should allow internet users to gain access to more online music in the EU. The proposals were welcomed by most of the interested parties: copyright collecting societies, such as Sacem in France and Gema in Germany. When presenting the proposal for a directive, on 11 July in Brussels, Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier said: “Today’s needs are different, collecting societies have to adapt to online demand that is developing at an incredible rate, as well as to the new requirements for transparency and governance”. In the past, disc producers bought the rights and sold. “Today, if iTunes want to put a song online in the whole of Europe, it has to get the authorisation from 27 entities, not to mention the rights holders. This is what we want to simplify,” the commissioner explained.
Europoliticspreviously announced, the project comprises two chapters: the functioning of collecting societies and the granting of pan-European licences by online music platforms.
It imposes new rules for accounting and financial transparency to some 250 collecting societies. For example, they will have to publish an annual transparency report with key figures, increase the participation of rights holders in their internal processes, and let the authors choose the collecting society they want. They will also have to pay authors and rights holders their due within 12 months.
Véronique Desbrosses, CEO of the European Grouping of Societies of Authors and Composers (GESAC), released a statement saying that “In many cases, the rules and practices of collecting societies are already in line with the standards of the proposed directive”.
With regard to granting pan-European licences, “it is undeniable that there is a margin for progress,” Christophe Depreter, GESAC’s president, recognised. As noted by Barnier, many collecting societies are not ready to meet the challenge of delivering territorial licences that can cover several member states. Meanwhile, the commercial platforms invest first in the biggest potential markets.
“In certain countries, such as Germany and the UK, there are over 60 online music services, in Poland under 20, and in some countries less than five,” the commissioner noted, adding that it is hardly surprising in this context that “consumers go looking elsewhere for alternative networks offering the same thing”. The project will force societies able to deliver pan-European licences to respect European standards, such as the precise identification of repertoires, which are under licence (for each work, and per territory), quick invoicing of those using licences, and payment on time of money owed to rightholders.
The idea is also to mutualise repertoires as much as possible. Thus the risk of national societies from big countries being favoured would be counterbalanced by the fact that societies with small repertoires could require the former to comply with the European criteria of integration of content in pan-European offers.
For the EU, the stakes are high, given that collecting societies collect some €6 billion a year (2009 figures) and that 83% of the income collected comes from music (ie €4.6 billion). According to GESAC, there are more than 300 online services that offer more than 20 million musical works (European and global). In 2010, the European digital music market grew by 22%, compared with only 4% in the US. The rapporteur at the European Parliament, Marielle Gallo (EPP, France), pledged that this reform will “benefit first and foremost European artists and consumers”.
“Today, if iTunes want to put a song online in the whole of Europe, it has to get the authorisation from 27 entities, not to mention the rights holders. This is what we want to simplify”