Cultural Diversity or Protectionsim?

The European Union is at it again. Now some MEPs are calling for stronger controls on digital music. MEPs voted in favour of an individual member report that suggests replacing some of the EUís non-binding recommendations of 2005 with a law enacted both by the EU parliament and member states. The suggestions include introducing managed competition into the rights landscape. This is actually a pretty sensible amendment to the idea of complete free market economies in the digital rights market, which could have the knock on effect of large artificial skews in the marketplace, most likely in favour of the bigger collections societies with the bigger budgets.

However one of the key aims of the proposed legislative changes is to create Ďgreater cultural diversityí in Europeís digital music provision. Underpinning this is a frankly protectionist / isolationist aim of building a framework to help European companies compete against US companies. Willem Wanrooij, Dutch collection society Buma/Stemra went as far as saying:

“Diversity is what makes European culture interesting,” Mr Wanrooij said, adding that “we have to rely on diversity to fight competition from the US and Japan.”

So now we get to the heart of the matter. This isnít about cultural diversity, itís about economic diversity. But in actual fact itís not really about that either because we already have over 200 European digital music stores with major label content (many more without). It just and so happens that the lionís share of the market is concentrated in Apple. So if we already have the diversity in provision, all thatís left is to make the revenues more diversified which either means taking revenues away from Apple or holding back Apple whilst the rest of the market grows. Neither of which sounds very much like free market economics to me. Nor Do I understand how legislation on cross border collection society procedures hopes to achieve any such aims.