Digital rights management is high on the new Spanish Presidency's agenda and will likely be discussed by the EU's 27 telecoms ministers at their meeting in Madrid in May, EurActiv has learnt.
The European Commission has been discussing the introduction of a controversial pan-European licensing system since Viviane Reding took her post as EU commissioner for the information society in 2004. The EU executive stated its intentions in black and white for the first time in an October 2009 reflection paper.
One-stop license shopping
This week, industry and consumer groups submitted their responses to an EU paper entitled 'Creative Content in a European Digital Single Market: Challenges for the Future'.
In the paper, the Commission expresses the fear that Europe's response to online copyright and piracy will result in "contradictory national initiatives" harming the bloc's competitiveness and cultural heritage.
If the Commission gets its way, national collecting societies that manage the rights of online content will have to integrate their systems, a prospect some societies have been dreading since the idea was first flagged in the 1990s.
In practice, online music shops such as iTunes or Amazon will be able to access the tracks and CDs of European artists in one fell swoop, outsmarting conflicting national legislation and collective societies.
Currently the author of a single work must have a separate copyright agreement on the piece in each of the 27 member states, leading to additional rights management costs. Moreover, users are often prevented from accessing content whose rights are managed in a different country.
According to the October paper, the Commission could merge two existing copyrights into one – those of reproduction and performance. These rights are typically bought by online services that provide downloads and streamed content.
A 'one-stop shop', the executive's more ambitious plan, would allow content providers to buy a license that covers the whole production chain of rights, which can include multiple authors, composers, music publishers, producers and recording artists.
The October reflection paper, which is a joint effort by the Commission's info society and internal market departments, will be shared by the new commissioner for the digital agenda, Neelie Kroes, and the new commissioner for the internal market, Michel Barnier, once they have taken up the mantle from their predecessors in February (EurActiv 13/03/09).
In her previous role as competition commissioner, Kroes proved to be an advocate of a pan-European model of collective rights management when she struck a deal with music labels to establish discretionary online European repertoires – shared lists of online content (EurActiv 21/10/09).