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Wednesday, 11 July 2012

EU Commission publishes draft directive on collective management of copyright and related rights

Kat-management of rights works
perfectly fine.
And it's cool
Today the European Commission issued its "Proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on collective management of copyright and related rights and multi-territorial licensing of rights in musical works for online uses in the internal market" (see Jeremy's post on The 1709 Blog here).
A legislative initiative in this respect was announced more than year ago, when the Commission released its blueprint for intellectual property rights to boost creativity and innovation. There it was highlighted that
While the substantive scope of copyright has been largely harmonised, rights are still licensed on a national basis. In view of the digital Single Market, streamlining copyright licensing and revenue distribution is one of the most important challenges that must be addressed. In the 2nd half of 2011 [so today's proposal comes with a bit of delay], the Commission will submit a proposal to create a legal framework for the efficient multi-territorial collective management of copyright, in particular in the music sector. It will also establish common rules on the transparent governance and revenue distribution. 
Indeed, the same objectives mentioned in the 2011 blueprint have been set out [copied&pasted, suggests Merpel] also in the press release which accompanies the draft directive. This clarifies the aims underlying such proposal (these being to modernise collecting societies and put in place incentives to promote their transparency and efficiency), along with the specific features relating to the collective managament of rights for online musical works. In particular, the draft directive is meant to address concerns relating to the fact that
There are times when
transparency
may not be appreciated
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. As a result of today’s proposal, those collecting societies willing to engage in the multi-territorial licensing of their repertoire would therefore have to comply with European standards. This would make it easier for service providers to obtain the necessary licences for music to be distributed online across the EU and to ensure that revenue is correctly collected and fairly distributed to composers and lyricists.
More generally, collecting societies operating in all sectors would have to comply with new European standards providing for improved governance and greater transparency in the conduct of their activities. The need for a change of certain practices was highlighted by recent cases where royalties collected on behalf of rightholders were lost due to poor investment policies, but also by evidence of long-delayed payments of royalties to rightholders.
Key objectives of the proposed directive include:
1.    To promote greater transparency and improved governance of collecting societies through strengthened reporting obligations and rightholders’ control over their activities, so as to create incentives for more innovative and better quality services.
2.    Building upon this – and more specifically – to encourage and facilitate multi-territorial and multi-repertoire licensing of authors' rights in musical works for online uses in the EU/EEA.
In practice:
·         Rightholders would have a direct say in the management of their rights, be remunerated more quickly and their ability to choose the most efficient collecting society for their purposes would be enshrined in law. This would bring about better protection of rightholders' interests, as well as increased access to cultural content for consumers.
·         The new rules would change the way in which collecting societies work across Europe, with new requirements such as improved management of repertoire, quicker payments to members, clarity in revenue streams from exploitation of rights, an annual transparency report and additional information provided directly to rightholders and business partners (such as other collecting societies). Member States would need to have mechanisms for solving disputes between collecting societies and rightholders. Improved standards and processes should result in better functioning collecting societies and more confidence surrounding their activities.
·         The multi-territorial licensing of authors' rights for the use of music on the Internet across borders would be facilitated but also subjected to the demonstration of the technical capacity to perform this task efficiently. This would benefit authors, internet service providers and citizens alike.

Attempts to predict the fate of 
EU copyright require 
cutting-edge techniques
It is not a mystery that at the moment the priority of the Commission is to facilitate licensing across the EU. This objective was clearly stated by Maria Martin-Prat, current Head of Unit - Copyright, DG Internal Market & Services, not long ago (here), and is apparent if one looks at recent legislative initiatives, such as the proposed directive on certain permitted uses of orphan works, which was published last year (see here and here for recent developments) [although in the case of orphan works it would be more appropriate to speak of lack of licensing tout court].
It may be interesting to speculate about what the future holds for copyright now, as some suspicious characters may think that we are just about to enter a new age of copyright in Europe, which may end up with the creation of a EU copyright title.
So far this idea has been vigorously rejected by members of the Commission. For instance, last year current European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services Michel Barnier wrote about the need to develop the digital single market, by addressing four main copyright-related challenges in the years to come. These pertain to collective rights management, orphan works, the online dissemination of audiovisual works, and the enforcement of rights. However, no full copyright harmonisation should be pursued, in that the single market in creative works should be “a Single Market but not a uniform one”.
'Single' but 'non-uniform' sounds a bit like an oxymoron, doesn't it?

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