Why Is It So Hard To Set Up A Pan-European Music License?

from the head-scratching dept

We'd been looking at reports about the ongoing discussions about pan-European music licenses without too much interest, given that licensing bodies only ever seem to do things in their own interests. But one aspect of the talks is a little bit interesting. It's often claimed by these bodies and their supporters that they're these little non-profits working tirelessly on the behalf of musicians and songwriters, ensuring they get paid for their work. It's a convenient appearance behind which these groups hide, using it as an excuse to justify plenty of ridiculous behavior. After all, if you object to anything these groups do (supposedly) on behalf of musicians, you're trying to take away the musicians' "right to get paid", so your opinion can be marginalized and ignored.

But the reality is that many of these licensing groups are nowhere near as innocent as they'd have you believe. Their licensing schemes often do little to actually help musicians make money, and in fact, they can even make it harder for musicians to succeed. Then there are examples like that of SoundExchange, which is sitting on more than $100 million in royalties it's collected, but claims it can't pay out because it can't find the musicians to which it's owed. In addition, where do unclaimed funds end up? The RIAA.

Just for a second, let's ignore the above paragraph and assume the licensing bodies really are working in the artists' best interests. If that's the case, and the artists' best interest constitutes them getting paid, why is it so difficult to set up a pan-European license? Why does it matter who collects the money, as long as it ends up in the artists' pockets? Apple has talked before about how having to set up licensing deals in each EU country before allowing iTunes Music Store sales there means that it's simply not worth the effort in some places, and that having a pan-European license would let it open up iTMS in new places. That would be good for artists, right? More outlets for online sales means more money for them. So why hasn't the pan-European license been done? Infighting over which licensing body gets to collect the fee -- and take a cut? If these licensing bodies are all about the musicians, surely that can't be the reason, since they just want to funnel as much money as possible to the artists.

So maybe, just maybe, the licensing bodies aren't solely interested in artists' welfare and have other motives?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    SRJCollege@gmail.com, May 27th, 2009 @ 1:58pm

    duh

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    minijedimaster (profile), May 27th, 2009 @ 2:36pm

    Re:

    Thanks for that wonderful insight and contribution to the conversation.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Tgeigs (profile), May 27th, 2009 @ 2:52pm

    You have to love SoundExchange, the band that listed "UNCLE KRACKER" on its "artists we wish we could find but can't, so we'll go ahead and just keep this money" list...

     

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  4.  
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    Tgeigs (profile), May 27th, 2009 @ 2:52pm

    Re:

    Sorry, should have read "the group that listed..."

     

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  5.  
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    Michael k Vegfruit (profile), May 27th, 2009 @ 2:53pm

    Playing Devil's advocate, I reckon they would say that they all want the best for the artist, but they differ about how to deliver it. Each collection agency will argue that their way of distributing revenues gets more to artists, or to the widest number of artists, or the most 'deserving' artists, than another agency's method. On that basis, it's only right that they, and their method, should be the one that is used.

    Sadly, because of the way things work in Europe (and the UK is a particularly bad example), a lot of newspapers and politicians will happily play along with the narrative that the EU is trying to force 'our' artists to accept a rights collection method that is less effective than our national rights agencies offer.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2009 @ 4:17pm

    Not to mention of course that you are still dealing with X number of countries with their own laws, rules, and methods for dealing with things. This isn't quite as simple as you make it out to be.

     

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  7.  
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    Paul Hobbs, May 27th, 2009 @ 5:43pm

    This could work...

    I know this article is a few years old now, but I still think the idea has merit. It certainly beats the c**p out of what goes on at the moment. It would probably also go a long way towards reducing piracy - why download a suspect copy of a movie when you can get high quality ones at very low cost.

    Personally, I would be more than happy to pay an extra $6 per month if it meant I could download all the music and movies I wanted, DRM free.

     

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  8.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), May 27th, 2009 @ 7:20pm

    Re: This could work...

    I know this article is a few years old now, but I still think the idea has merit. It certainly beats the c**p out of what goes on at the moment. It would probably also go a long way towards reducing piracy - why download a suspect copy of a movie when you can get high quality ones at very low cost.

    Personally, I would be more than happy to pay an extra $6 per month if it meant I could download all the music and movies I wanted, DRM free.


    Those types of programs always look good until you dig into the details... and then you realize how damaging they really are. They're basically a tax, and they encourage all the wrong behaviors. They encouraging gaming of the system in terms of who gets paid, and they encourage more and more entities to seek out a similar tax. So you pay some amount for music and movies... but then the newspapers want a similar tax. And the comics. And then bloggers. And then people who create YouTube videos. And then they start expanding how much it costs... and you have a huge bureaucracy where money isn't being paid out.

    There's no need for a centralized bureaucracy. Just let the market work.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    PaulT (profile), May 28th, 2009 @ 7:48am

    I know for a fact that I buy less music because of these licensing deal. Why? I simply don't have the choice in Spain that I would have had in the UK, several of my preferred retailers (Play and Amazon in particular) refuse to sell me downloads yet have no problem sending me CDs. I prefer not to buy CDs as I only rip them to hard drive then throw them in a cupboard somewhere, which makes a lot of clutter that I'm better off without.

    However, there's no Spanish alternative for these stores AFAIK. The only outlets I'm aware of are either overpriced (iTunes), dependent on applications I can't run on my preferred Linux system (iTunes again) or don't stock the music I'm interested in. I buy plenty from eMusic, but even then there's music available in the UK that licensing prevents me from buying.

    Therefore, I often don't bother buying some music at all, and it's all down to the labels and their attempts to "protect" their business. It's frustrating and one of the major reasons I have no sympathy for the "pirates are killing us" sob stories.

     

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  10.  
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    SRJCollege@gmail.com, May 28th, 2009 @ 9:38am

    Re: Re:

    @minijedimaster

    I am sorry, how's this, piss off. minijedimaster, seriously that's your screen name? What a tool.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 22nd, 2009 @ 5:40am

    any kind of consolodation of the licensing bodies is probably going to cause some people to lose jobs. people just don't want that to happen in their country.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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