Europe brings down rights barriers

Collecting societies can cross borders

BRUSSELS — European composers and songwriters will have greater freedom to choose which collecting societies manage their rights following a European Commission antitrust ruling.

Wednesday’s ruling prevents the 24 European members of the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers from insisting that authors sign up only with their local organization. They will now be free to choose any collector, which the commission hopes will prompt greater competition on service quality, collection efficiency and management fees.

The commission also ruled against territorial restrictions that prevent a collecting society from offering licenses to commercial users outside their domestic territory. This opens the way for multi-national or pan-European music licensing for Internet, cable or satellite broadcasters. However, the societies retain the right to set local royalty payment levels.

Complaints about territorial restrictions from RTL and online service Music Choice triggered the case.

The International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers said that it regretted the ruling, and that the commission’s approach to territoriality “will inevitably lead to a catastrophic fragmentation of repertoire and therefore to legal uncertainty for music users.”

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