Collecting societies not so bad after all?

26 Sep 2005 | 596 words | european union copyright business music

Been reading through a number of the published responses to the a recent EU study on a community initiative on the cross-border collective management copyright for the on-line distribution of musical works. This is part of a collaborative effort by a number people associated with Creative Commons who are looking into the compatibility between CC and Collective Rights Management (as it is practiced in Europe).

Reading through the responses i had been assigned has made me even more skeptical of aligning us with these attempts of the EU to break open the monopolies of the Collecting Societies. The attempts of the Commission seem to get us closer to a situation where members of collecting societies can actually use Creative Commons licenses for some of their works. But at the same time this means moving with big media companies which are more than eager to get rid of the collecting societies all together (as they increase bargaining position of individual artists vis a vis commercial users of their works and make artists generally less vulnerable to pressure from them). The reactions of O2, Deutsche Telkom and the EBU which i tried to summarize below clearly show that we are standing on an extremely slippery slope indeed:

O2 (the UK based mobile phone operator): O2 is really, really pissed by the paper. (and by the fact that they only had 3 weeks to react but so were we when we found out). first of all the commission does not propose to disband collective management, which is unacceptable to o2 as this means they actually have to pay authors if the distribute their music. my favorite sentence:

Commercial users faces considerable difficulties in obtaining the rights to exploit material on-line, and especially on terms that allow them to offer consumers attractive and profitable services at commercially acceptable prices.

Translation: the prices need to go down so that we can sell music cheap while having huge profit margins. I guess they telcos have even less understanding of them internets than the music industry…

DEUTSCHE TELEKOM: same as o2 but their anger is hidden behind much better research (if someone is interested in the complexities of the whole question this paper is a nice read). It sure looks like as if the ex-monopolists are the ones who are most furious when they encounter monopolies (in German there is a fitting but untranslatable saying: ‘die schärfsten kritiker der Elche ware früher selber welche’) they also opt for option 2 with elements of option 3. these elements of option 3 do include the right of authors to give non-exclusive licenses to the collecting societies which would make the solution proposed by DT compatible with CC licenses.

EBU: the European Broadcasters Union is not pissed off. Rather it is disappointed that the commission has not come up with a solution that will give them world wide blanket licenses for all uses that come with legal guarantees for their members immediately (somehow it seems they forgot royalty free in their list). Further they do not mention authors at all (& they constantly refer to authors rights (as opposed to phonogram producers) as ‘petit droits’) except when they demand mandatory collective licensing of all rights needed by broadcasters to broadcast. Which would obviously be very bad for someone who wants to engage in individual rights management (e.g use an open content license for a broadcast-able work). But then what do you expect from the same people who think they should own everything they broadcast for 50 years (see the ongoing negotiations about the WIPO broadcasting treaty)