Thursday, February 26, 2009
Some news travels slowly. I just learned today, from the new issue of MusikTexte, that the European Commission announced in July of last year that it had lifted two monopolies which had been exercised by European collecting societies: the membership clause, in which members of one organization were prevented from choosing or moving to another, and the territorial restrictions, which prevented individual societies from issuing royalties outside their domestic territories. The collection of licenses for music is in serious transition and it is difficult to guess how this particular decision will play out. On the one hand, I like the idea that an organization with muscle, like Germany's GEMA, will be able, in priciple at least, to start collecting license fees in those countries in which the local collecting society is ineffective (some societies are notoriously ineffective at collecting and forwarding royalties for members of foreign societies, despite cooperation agreeements to the contrary). On the other hand, the experience of the United States, which has three competing collecting societies (ASCAP, BMI and SESAC) but is still unable to provide blanket coverage or collect fees at the level of Germany's GEMA, is not particularly encouraging.