Europe’s music royalties societies must now allow artists to
sign up to a society of their choice and make multi-country licenses
available to the likes of Amazon and Apple after a court backed an EU veto
on national monopolies.
On Friday Europe’s General Court, its second highest, upheld a 2008 ruling
by the European Commission.
Under the current system, each European country has its own collecting
society, such as PRS in the United Kingdom and SIAE in Italy, which deal
only with songwriters and performers in their own country.
In total they collect around $7.88 billion a year in royalties for more
than a million songwriters and performers in the 27-country European Union.
Critics say the system restricts consumers’ access to music and hinders
the uptake of innovative services offered by online service providers such
as Apple, Amazon and Spotify, which are forced to set up many different
versions according to country and cannot offer international libraries.
Friday’s ruling came after 21 of the collecting societies and their
umbrella group CISAC challenged a decision by the European Commission in
2008 that they make it easier for music retailers to acquire
multi-territorial broadcasting licenses from a single body instead of
several national agencies.
In the same 2008 ruling the Commission said songwriters should be able to
choose whichever agency they wanted to collect their royalties.
The Commission’s action was prompted by complaints from British online
music provider Music Choice and broadcaster RTL that music fans could only
buy songs in their country of residence and retailers acquire licenses
from national monopolies rather than being able to acquire a pan-European
Friday’s ruling by the General Court rejected however the European
Commission’s finding that the collecting societies had colluded illegally
in violation of EU antitrust rules, saying regulators did not have
adequate proof of wrong doing.
By Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS | Fri Apr 12, 2013 1:33pm EDT