EU proposes changes to music licensing rules: iTunes, others to benefit

If you've ever found that iTunes or another premium content service is missing your favourite music album, that could change with the easing of EU licensing rules.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

We've all been there. You fire open iTunes or any other premium content provider to download (legally) your favourite music track or that album you wanted to buy in Holland or wherever but didn't have the time, and it's not there. Why?

Because you're in the wrong region of the European Union. Despite the single market economy, many of the 27 member nation states still don't talk to one another, and collecting societies are no different.

That could soon change.

The European Commission today proposed changes to licensing rules that could see online content stores --- such as iTunes or Amazon --- selling music and other content across Europe. 

Currently, music rights and the like are licensed mainly on a national basis, but the Internet has broken down the walls of national borders and taken to iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify in a bid to reach out to the wider European community.

Consumers don't think about national borders either, and therein lies the rub. No wonder piracy is off the charts; most Europeans can't legally access the music they want to buy and download.

The proposals made would require greater transparency and better management for groups that collect royalties and copyright holders alike. The rules would encourage rights to be licensed more widely, the Commission said in a statement. 

"Some collecting societies struggle to adapt to the requirements of the management of rights for online use of musical works, in particular in a cross-border context," said EU Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier. 

Collecting societies, which act as intermediaries between the composers, musicians and content creators and those who seek to sell their work. These societies need to be more "efficient," the Commission added. 

Some collecting societies have "struggled to adapt" to the requirements of rights management for music in particular across borders. The new proposals would see companies like Apple, Amazon, Google and Spotify --- to name a few --- to obtain licenses for music and other content to their online stores and see revenue distributed fairly back to the content creators.

iTunes is available in all 27 member states, but accounts for just shy of 20 percent of all the recording industry's revenue in 2010, compared to around 50 percent in the United States, the New York Times said.

Rights holders would ultimately be better protected, the Commission said, and give consumers increased access to "cultural content" outside of their EU member state. 

There are more than 250 collecting societies in the EU, with one collecting society in each member state representing all of some of a category of rights holders --- such as composers or artists. The Commission said the EU recorded music market is around €6 billion ($7.37 bn; £4.74 bn). 

Image source: Flickr.

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