• Multi-Country Music Licences Coming to Europe

    The second-highest court in Europe has ruled that music royalty societies must allow musicians to adopt multi-country licenses if that's what they want. They must also be allowed to sign up to whichever society they like, not just the one that traditionally represents artists in their own country.

    This upholds a 2008 ruling by the European Commission. Or at least, that's what is being widely reported - some commentators point out that it's more complicated*.

    In any case this whole issue is a big deal not only for musicians but for the millions of consumers who are constantly faced with the dreaded error message "This content is not available in your country".

    As things stand, countries throughout the world have separate governing bodies when it comes to recording rights. This requires companies such as Apple, Amazon and Spotify to enter into time-consuming and expensive negotiations with every single jurisdiction before content can be sold there. Inevitably, smaller countries get left out if they don't offer big enough markets to be worth the effort. This is a curse where I live (New Zealand) as we are routinely left out of licensing schemes. If, like me, you don't like to pirate content then you often simply don't get to access it.

    I have previously argued that the status quo is a major driver of pirate activity. I can't count the number of people I know who loathe the idea of entering "the pirate parts of the Internet" but are eventually driven to do so because there's no way for them to legally purchase content. New services come and go while we wait for something - anything - that lets us pay for legal content (for example, it's been five years since Hulu launched and it's still not available outside the US).

    This latest ruling won't directly help us down under, but maybe it's a step in the right direction. We need a global licensing scheme.

    * The 2013 ruling is a response to appeals by various royalty societies against the 2008 ruling. The 2013 ruling does annul most parts of the 2008 ruling that were appealed. So perhaps it's not so much a case of upholding the original ruling as a decision not to annul some parts that weren't actually appealed.
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