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July 8, 2005

Toward a Common Market for Digital Rights

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

The European Commission has been reviewing various ideas for collective management of digital intellectual property rights across the EU. The current situation is a total mess, with each of the EU's 25 members having varying rules and regulations. Licensing a single work for use across Europe becomes a trial for even the most honest and dedicated.

Now, as MarketWatch reports, the EU is looking to take a first step towards sorting out the mess by proposing a single rights sytem for online music. If this gets implemented, one immediate beneficiary should be musicians, who would only have to register (and pay) once to get a copyright instead of going through the process 25 times. Another obvious beneficiary would be online music services, which would have a single source they can go to when they want to license music for use or for offer on their services.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Laws and Regulations


1. Crosbie Fitch on July 8, 2005 12:01 PM writes...

Have they just realised that if they don't move fast Creative Commons will have blown them out of the water?

Probably too late.

Permalink to Comment

2. Abbie on July 10, 2005 8:33 AM writes...

I'm not sure where the idea comes from that "one immediate beneficiary should be musicians, who would only have to register (and pay) once to get a copyright". Musicians, as other rightholders, don't have to register or pay anything to get a copyright on their work. Collective Rights Management organisations license the (copyrighted) works of artists to ease commercial exploitation and enforcement of their rights.

What would be beneficiary for artists is the paper's proposal to "give all right-holders across the EU the possibility to adhere to any collective rights manager of their choice for the EU-wide exploitation of their online rights." (p.35) That is competition between rights organisations (to offer the best EU-wide licensing).

Permalink to Comment

3. Dr. wex on July 11, 2005 9:55 AM writes...

Musicians, as other rightholders, don't have to register or pay anything to get a copyright on their work.

In many countries, if you wish to register your copyright, you must pay fees. It is true that signatories to treaties such as the Berne Convention recognize the notion of "born copyrighted". So the copyright itself exists when the work is created. However, that doesn't account for governmental regulations recording the fact of the copyright.

Permalink to Comment

4. Abbie on July 12, 2005 12:19 PM writes...

"However, that doesn't account for governmental regulations recording the fact of the copyright."

This, again, has nothing to do with a "single rights system" and the role of Collective Rights Management organisations. Resgistering a copyright, under US law, would be a requirement for a copyright infringement case, but has no connection with the exploitation of that copyright. Licensing does not depend on registration or connected fees, which is a US centred practice and mindset. At issue is not the establishement of a copyright, but its exploitation/enforcement in 25 member states.

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5. TomCS on July 12, 2005 8:15 PM writes...

I think the issue here is primarily the application of the EU Single Market principles to on-line music sales. Apple, for example, have been forced by the structure of rights licensing rules not only to set up (so far) 14 separate on-line "stores" for individual EU countries, but also to block access to e.g the French store for EU customers without a French credit or debit card. One multi-language site should be enough. British consumer organisations have already asked to EU to rule that this is unacceptable, and, to the extent that I understand "single market" principles, it clearly is. But it cannot be solved until the EU have a common music rights management system. In fact it is not "difficult" to license music across the EU, at present it is impossible: you can only do it country by country.

The main winners eventually will be on-line stores like Apple and consumers. (Consumers will benefit from a wider range of possible legal downloads, particularly if they want to buy eg "world music", and the possibility of selecting a cheaper option for downloads available on more than one site, after adjusting for exchange rates and charges.) Musicians and composers will only benefit if the new cross-EU licensing agency is more efficient at collecting their royalties than the current 25, which in principle they should be, and so able to charge lower handling charges and fees.

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