The Wheel Turns Full Circle

The Right’s bodies are having a busy old time in the digital music arena of late. The European authorities’ push for a harmonised approach to rights body licensing across Europe has been getting a decent amount of press. The irony is that the debate is in many ways a few years too late. Jupiter first identified the fragmented rights landscape as an inhibitor to Europe’s digital music market back in 2001 and even suggested that there was a role for the European Union. At the time it was a radical idea and I remember getting fair but of mild ridicule from some people within the rights industry…

Elsewhere, with the MCPS/PRS BPI debate still raging Universal have stoked the flames by filing a complaint to the European Commission competition authorities claiming that Europe’s rights bodies are unfairly hindering the digital music market with their ‘excessive’ royalty demands. And this is no lone ranger campaign, the complaint is backed by numerous music services and mobile operators. So why all the fuss about licensing? Well, whatever anyone may tell you, the digital music market is still firmly in its infancy and all the various stakeholders want to codify their share now, before it becomes a major distribution channel. There have always been tensions between rights bodies and labels and there have been worse clashes in the past. The bottom line is that labels are often uneasy with the collective agreements, to the extent that decades ago one major label even tried to bypass local societies and appoint one society to collect internationally on it’s behalf. Which has ironic overtones of the current EU digital proposals.