October 7, 2005

EU presses for cross-border online music licenses

LONDON (Reuters) - A key European Union official wants to
simplify the way music is licensed to online services such as
Apple's iTunes, warning that Europe will fall behind unless
cross-border licenses are created.

"Europe's model of copyright clearance belongs more to the
19th century than to the 21st," said Charlie McCreevy, European
Commissioner for the Internal Market and Services, in remarks
prepared for a speech in London on Friday.

"Once upon a time it may have made sense for the member
state to be the basic unit of division. The Internet overturns
that premise," he said.

Starting an online music service in Europe currently
requires the consent of dozens of license holders in each
country: record labels, royalty collection societies, music
publishers, and in some cases from the artists themselves.

The resulting lengthy negotiations pushed back the launch
of services such as iTunes and Napster by months, and some
popular U.S. music services such as Yahoo have yet to appear in
Europe in part because of licensing red tape.

McCreevy said he planned to introduce a proposal "based on
the premise that territory-by-territory management of copyright
clearance is too cumbersome and too costly."

"It is not efficient for content users and it does not
serve the interests of right-holders who want their content
disseminated as widely as possible," he said.

"In a territory-by-territory model, the weakest link in the
chain will hold up the quick and effective roll-out of their
latest creative content."