Parliament votes for easier copyright rules for online music providers

Before MP3 trading, home cassette copying was the bane of the music industry. [Shutterstock]

The European Parliament has passed a bill on Tuesday (4 February) making it easier for online music streaming sites to provide services in several European countries, with the aim of boosting entrepreneurship in online music services.

The proposal aims to streamline national copyright systems and boost cross-border services allowing users to access music in different EU countries.

“This directive is a clear signal that copyright can be easily adapted to the Internet,” said Marielle Gallo, French centre-right MEP (EPP) and rapporteur for the proposal. “Copyright has an essential role to play in the digital economy,” she said in a statement.

“Most of all, artist and creators benefit from these new rules as they will be paid more rapidly for their work. The directive will also have a positive effect on the digital single market. We offer to companies providing online services, like Spotify, to introduce new services in the whole of Europe,” Gallo added.

The proposal for a directive passed at the European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg with a resounding majority of 640 votes, while 18 MEPs voted against and 22 abstained – all from the far-right EFD group, the far-left GUE/NGL group and the non-aligned MEPs.

National ministers are expected to endorse the directive in a forthcoming session of the EU’s competitiveness Council. The next session is planned on 20-21 February.

The directive is set to encourage start-ups in the digital music industry. Many of these offer new services focusing on distribution and enabling users to access music more easily.

In an interview with EURACTIV earlier, technology entrepreneur Xavier Damman stressed the opportunities for EU start-ups in the music industry. “We have Soundcloud [social network for hosting audio] in Berlin; Spotify in Sweden [music streaming service]; or Last.FM in London [online radio service],” Damman said. “Those are really strong players in the music industry, and that is one area where we should lay our focus.”

A report commissioned by the European Commission in 2012 says that “audiences have changed their music consumption."

"They can now listen to music (downloaded to their own devices or through streaming services) on many different devices, anywhere and anytime.”

The report explains that the global music market is dominated by four major labels – Sony, EMI, Warner Music and Universal – which together control 70% of the world market of music publishing.

Easy online access to music could allow smaller music labels to break into the business and reach a broader audience, the Commission says. 

In July 2011, the European Commission launched a proposal to modernise collecting societies, in particular in the music sector.

Collecting societies manage the licensing of copyright-protected music for online use on behalf of composers and collect and redistribute corresponding royalties to them.

The proposal by the European Commission was not the first attempt to address the shortcomings of collective licensing practices.

In 2005 the Commission had already issued a Recommendation that triggered the withdrawal of the Anglo-American repertoire of major publishers from collective management organisations and the creation of new entities providing multi-territorial licenses.

Different decisions taken by the European Competition authorities have also scrutinised the practices put in place by collecting societies.

  • 20-21 February: Competitiveness Council

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