Collecting Societies Join Forces to Modernise Music Licensing in Europe

by Reed Smith


  • GEMA, PRS for Music, and STIM will collaborate to streamline national and pan-European music licensing and processing
  • The collecting societies plan to create a licensing hub containing all their national repertoires
  • It is hoped that the venture will result in a more efficient and cost-effective music licensing regime in Europe

The collaboration

On 17 June 2013, three European music collecting societies announced that they would collaborate to “simplify national and pan-European music licensing and processing”. It is intended that the venture between GEMA, PRS for Music, and STIM will result in a more modern, efficient and cost-effective music licensing regime in Europe.

As part of this arrangement, GEMA will become a shareholder and customer of the International Copyright Enterprise AB (ICE), which was founded by PRS for Music and STIM in 2007. The existing copyright repertoire management services offered by ICE will be extended to include the processing of transitional licences for digital music services for the benefit of other collecting societies. There are also plans for ICE to create an audio visual database for film and television music processing.

In parallel, the societies hope to establish a licensing hub combining their national repertoires. The hub will be one of the largest repertoires of its kind in Europe. It will provide licensing services and millions of copyright works for download, subscription and streaming services to holders of multi-territorial European online rights. The launch is scheduled for 2014, subject to competition clearance. The initiative will use copyright and online processing services provided by ICE, and will work in conjunction with the music publishing industry’s other major technology project, the Global Repertoire Database (GRD).

The ICE venture, the GRD and related technology projects are part of an attempt by the music publishing industry to change with the times and overhaul the now antiquated systems of collection and payment that have been employed for many years. Copyright users may also benefit from the broadening of the ICE venture through fewer licensing negotiations, more accurate invoicing, and a reduction in costs due to economies of scale and the removal of duplicate processes. The hope for music creators is that the greater efficiencies will result in more accurate and faster royalty payments.

Final thoughts

However, it is far too early to determine whether the new partnership will result in dramatic improvements in licensing and rights management in the region. The time, cost and administration involved in music licensing in Europe still remains disproportionately high – due almost entirely to the fragmentation of repertoire that requires music users to obtain a larger number of licences than under a nationalised licensing system. The ICE venture reveals the broadening chasm between those “super societies” who can afford to invest in and develop systems to deal with direct, pan-European licensing, and the smaller societies who will ultimately end up being subservient to the super societies and paying for their services.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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