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Music online, for Europe finally a modern licensing system

Europe is finally moving towards a centralized, more modern and efficient system for the licensing of musical rights. The confirmation of an agreement on a new method for the granting of the new mold authorization which provides for the possibility of acquiring multi-territorial rights so as to be able to sell songs online without being forced to draw up multiple contracts in each country, comes from a statement communicated from competition commissioner Neelie Kroes.

In particular, the document reads the participants in the round table (including Apple, Amazon, BEUC, EMI, Nokia, PRS for Music, SACEM, STIM and Universal) agreed on a license system on the basis of which it is possible to collect the repertoires of various rights protection companies with non-discriminatory and transparency criteria to allow other entities to deliver multi-territorial sales licenses. In practical terms this means that a company such as Apple, for example, will be able to obtain the right to trade songs online by simply entering into an agreement with a single rights company without being forced to resort to multiple licenses. At that point, it would become possible for customers to buy music from any online store, based in any European country, simply by looking for the best offer.

Even if it remains to be understood how and when everything will be put into practice, the far-reaching turning point and the result of strong pressure from the EU, which has long asked that the music market also comply with the rules governing the free market. As a result of cross-agreements between the various musical rights companies, it is now impossible to buy songs online from a shopkeeper who is outside national borders, a clear contradiction with the possibility sanctioned by the EU agreements to purchase goods and services where better citizens believe this is to encourage competition and stimulate the market. With the current conditions, we are faced with the possibility (actually exercised in some cases) of maintaining a control over prices by imposing them on consumers who have no possibility of going out of the country of residence to seek better ones. The situation deemed very inconvenient by the EU because the effective development of this market which is largely in deficit compared to the United States is prevented

Among the most concerned were some consumer associations, such as the British ones, who had turned to the EU to report the case. Apple had been directly involved because its UK store charged higher prices than other Union stores. Cupertino had replied by pointing out that the top management of the company were willing to change the pricing policies, but that this was made impossible by the agreements entered into with the rights protection companies.

In the face of yesterday's news, Apple has reiterated what has been said in other locations, namely its availability to open iTunes in all European countries (therefore including those excluded today, in particular numerous Eastern countries). "We are encouraged – says Apple – by progress towards a more efficient system for licensing online music and we are optimistic about the possibility of making iTunes available to more European countries within the next year"

Emi has already made it known that it intends to enter into a pan European license agreement with the Spanish SGAE and the French SACEM; Siae's transalpine counterpart announced the will to work right now to create a non-exclusive portal to offer the widest possible repertoire of online services on a pan European basis.