The European Commission proposed a law on Wednesday to fix the continent’s complicated royalty collection process and to pave the way for easier digital distribution. Prominent musicians, however, immediately slammed the proposal, saying it fails to fix problems of inefficiency and embezzlement.
Reuters reports that Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason and Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien are among the signatories of a letter that accuses European law-makers of selling out musicians in favor of copyright collection societies.
The number and outlook of these societies, which collect and manage royalties on behalf of artists, are blamed by many for stunting the growth of digital distribution in Europe. There are more than 250 societies in various countries which has turned the licensing process into a slow, bureaucratic affair. As the New York Times reports, iTunes is the only legitimate music service available in all 27 EU countries while digital revenue accounts for only 19 percent of the music industry’s total revenue in Europe. In America, digital royalties accounted for nearly half of such revenue in 2010.
In Wednesday’s announcement, the European Commission notes that “online access to cultural content .. does not recognise borders or national restrictions” and proposes measures to create a single licensing market and give rights owners’ more power over the collection process. (Full announcement can be found here).
The musicians, however, argue that the new law will only perpetuate bad elements of the current system.
“You thus legitimise one of the most problematic forms of embezzlement adopted by some collecting societies in Europe,” their letter reads.
Their accusations partly relate to rules that allow the societies to hold on to royalties for years at a time. In the past, some copyright societies have been accused of high overhead, placing musicians’ money in bad investments or even embezzling it altogether.
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