As a lawyer, I often inform my clients about the need to clear licenses with the various licensing societies whenever they use works belonging to other parties. This is especially familiar to those in the entertainment industry, for example, a singer who wants to re-record a version of a song written by someone else.
The same affects the technology industry--say, for instance, a MP3 site or Internet radio station. These rights are typically held by collection societies that are not-for-profit organizations empowered to collect the royalties from the exploitation of such rights. Where rights are held by commercial entities, these are typically and easily achieved between commercial, profit-driven entities.
The problem with collection societies seems to be getting such not-for-profit organization to see the commercial angle. These would include trying to engage the collection society in areas, if it is felt, that an exception would be required or to seek clarification.
The problem is exacerbated when as a result of convergence, techies meet entertainer. For example, if new technologies enable new ways to deliver content that may be different from the way content is currently delivered and perhaps the way it is charged, then the collection society's view would be of importance. Without such guidance, the business cannot understand its costs moving forward and what concerns would be required.
The frustration felt is that sometimes, it takes months and even worse, years, to get a dialog moving with collection societies (and from experience, with no progress made). To the technology industry, that may constitute an entire product cycle and a very unhappy customer desperately trying to figure out how much to pay its supplier.
The situation is sought to be reversed with amendments made to the Copyright Tribunal in September this year. The Copyright Tribunal has been in existence for more than 20 years and to date, has heard three cases. With the new amendments, the Copyright Tribunal's powers have been increased to hear cases involving all kinds of copyrights licensed by collection societies. With such powers, the Copyright Tribunal can intervene in areas where the licensing terms are unfair and even substitute it for ones that are reasonable.
While this move is greatly applauded, no one would willingly go to an arbiter to ascertain an uncertain result and the preferred route is still to work with the collection society. This would then mean that other than sorting the legal niceties, the other aspects of engagement, negotiation and collaboration are also preserved.