Right after the good news about ACTA, i.e. it's dead, comes some more encouraging signs from Europe, this time from the European Commission rather than the Parliament. The EC has proposed a simplified and unified music licensing scheme to cover all member states.
In essence, what the EC wants is for companies to be able to license music, for selling or streaming, once for the entire EU. Now, companies have to go through various licensing groups, copyright holders and representatives, in all the different EU countries they want to do business in.
This is why you can't buy all the albums on iTunes, not to mention the Amazon MP3 store, in all the EU countries. And this is why Spotify is still rolling out one country at a time.
Now, a proposal for a unified licensing scheme is one thing, but the EC goes even deeper and it's clear that the people drafting the proposed directive know what they're talking about.
EC's announcement starts out by listing the problems with cross-border licensing, acknowledging that online services work worldwide and that music licensing bodies should recognize this.
But it gets even better, the EC also warns about abuses by current licensing groups, abuses that have been widely reported but that have resulted in little change so far.
"More generally, collecting societies operating in all sectors would have to comply with new European standards providing for improved governance and greater transparency in the conduct of their activities. The need for a change of certain practices was highlighted by recent cases where royalties collected on behalf of rightholders were lost due to poor investment policies, but also by evidence of long-delayed payments of royalties to rightholders," the EC wrote
directive has several goals. First is the creation of standards for how these collection societies work in relation to their governance, transparency and financial management.
Second, the directive aims to create minimum requirements that must be met on multi-territorial licensing. Finally, it wants to "create conditions that can expand the legal offer of online music," which is somewhat vague.
It is a very big move in the right direction, if it can be put into practice. This being the EU, it's going to take a few years at best to do this. And you can expect that many licensing bodies, which have enjoyed a de facto monopoly so far, are going to be furious at the proposal.