[co-author: Alasdair Muller]
On 20 February 2014, the European Parliament adopted the collective management of copyright and related rights directive (Directive), which aims to make it easier for online providers to stream music in multiple EU countries. It is hoped that this will encourage the development of EU-wide online music services whilst also protecting artists’ rights.
Under the Directive, online music service providers will be able to obtain licences from management organisations across the EU, rather than having to deal with separate licensors in each Member State. The Directive stipulates various minimum requirements that collecting societies must observe when granting such licences.
Furthermore, to ensure that musicians in all Member States have access to multi-territorial licences, management organisations that only issue copyright licences for a single country will be able to request that another organisation represent their repertoire. Provided certain conditions set out in the Directive are met, those organisations will be obligated to comply with such requests. This has the added benefit of promoting diversity of cultural expression, as even the smallest and least popular repertoires will have access to the whole market.
In order to ensure that artists’ rights remain properly managed, general requirements as to governance, financial management, transparency and reporting will also apply to all collecting societies within the EU.
Significantly, however, the Directive does not deal with multi-territorial licensing of any of the other rights required to use and exploit music online – in particular the rights of producers and performers.
Similarly, whilst the Directive also aims to ensure that artists receive adequate royalties promptly, the time period by which such payment must be made – no later than nine months from the end of the financial year in which the rights revenue is collected – could be accused of being unambitious in today’s digital age.
Noticeably, the Directive also fails to provide any specific sanctions; rather it states that any enforcement measures used should be “effective, proportionate and dissuasive”. Hence, although the deadline for implementation of the Directive by Member States is not until 2016, the UK is already working on the draft Copyright (Regulation of Relevant Licensing Bodies) Regulations, which will give the government power to impose a code of conduct upon collecting societies, should their self-regulation fail to conform to the required minimum standards.
It therefore remains to be seen whether, and to what extent, the Directive will be able to establish a single European licensing market.
The Directive still has to be formally approved by the Council, after which Member States will have two years to incorporate it into national law.