BMI pacts with Euro right orgs

Allows worldwide issuance of Internet broadcasts

NEW YORK — BMI and four European music performance rights orgs have signed agreements to allow the issuance of worldwide performance licenses for Internet-based broadcasts.

While gathered in Santiago, Chile, for the Intl. Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (Cisac) World Congress, Holland’s Buma, Germany’s Gema, PRS of the U.K., Sacem of France and BMI all inked separate bilateral deals that clear one another to grant global online performance rights.

Online musical performance formats that fall under the agreement’s purview include Webcasting, streaming, music-on-demand and music included in video Netcasts, including films and television programming.

“We realize that the extensive use of copyrighted music is not limited to territorial boundaries in the online world,” the groups said in a joint statement. “We hope that others will agree that this is a necessary step to assure the legal performance of music online.”

The performance rights groups decided on the somewhat complex structure of many bilateral agreements because the signing of a single global agreement would likely run afoul of U.S. antitrust laws, which prohibit one business or consortium from dominating its market, said BMI spokesman Robbin Ahrold.

He insists that the agreements will actually make things much easier for would-be licensees. “Up until these agreements were signed, it was clearly a lot of work if you wanted to be in compliance,” Ahrold said. “For starters, you had to sign a whole list of requirements from groups all over the globe.”

After the pacts, Netcos who wish to sign up for a worldwide online license need only contract with their own national org.

That may tempt some enterprising online content firms to take their business to the country with the least stringent or cheapest copyright licensing procedures, admitted Ahrold.

But the agreements signed Tuesday include specific language to hold companies financially accountable in the signatories’ countries, even if they are headquartered elsewhere, he said.

The pacts are effective immediately and are valid through the end of 2001.

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