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IP/09/1548

Brussels, 20th October 2009

Competition: Commission's Online Roundtable on Music opens way to improved online music opportunities for European consumers

A joint statement setting out general principles that would underpin the online distribution of music in the future and so lead to improved online music opportunities for European consumers was signed by participants at the fourth meeting of the Roundtable on the Online Distribution of Music, chaired by European Commissioner for Competition Neelie Kroes on 19th October 2009. The participants at the Roundtable were Amazon, BEUC, EMI, iTunes, Nokia, PRS for Music, SACEM, STIM and Universal. Following the Roundtable, a number of participants announced concrete steps and commitments that should result in improved access of European consumers to music online.

Commissioner Kroes stated: "European consumers want and deserve better online music offerings. Today's agreement by the Roundtable on core principles represents real progress in this direction. It is the first time that players from various parts of the market have agreed on a common roadmap. I also welcome the concrete steps and commitments that have been made and which should improve the availability of online music for consumers."

Commissioner Kroes opened the meeting by recalling that the need to improve the licensing of music for online use had been recognised. Because current licensing mechanisms are too complex and burdensome, stakeholders are missing out on opportunities in the digital world. Simpler and more transparent licensing solutions had the potential to expand the market and bring new and more innovative online music offerings to a broader range of European consumers, whilst at the same time protecting cultural diversity and the interests of authors.

The Roundtable participants signed up to a joint statement in which:

  • they committed to pursuing new EU licensing platforms comprising the repertoires of several collecting societies. These platforms should consolidate the widest possible repertoire in their catalogues and should be based on voluntary cooperation among right owners.

  • they agreed that collective rights managers should adhere to certain objective, transparent and non-discriminatory criteria to allow other entities to deliver multi-territorial licences.

  • they set up a working group to create a common framework for the identification and exchange of rights ownership information. This will make it easier for commercial users to identify the relevant right owners and secure the necessary rights.

These core principles are open to other industry stakeholders. They should facilitate the way in which music for online use is licensed such that the market grows and consumers benefit.

Following the Roundtable:

  • Apple announced that it was encouraged by progress towards more efficient online music licensing and that it is optimistic in making the iTunes store available to consumers in more European countries in the coming year.

  • EMI announced that it expects to take an important step forward in digital licensing in Europe via forthcoming non-exclusive deals with the Spanish (SGAE) and French (SACEM) collecting societies.

  • Amazon stressed that it is continuously working to provide customers a broad selection of products and low prices on all of its European websites and now enables delivery of all physical product categories into all 27 Member States of the EU. Amazon highlighted that it was committed to continue working to provide customers the broadest possible selection of online music offerings. Amazon welcomed the joint principles as an important step to evolve the EU licensing framework and facilitate online distribution of digital music for customers across Europe.

  • In line with the agreed principles of the Roundtable, SACEM will now actively cooperate with as many European authors’ societies as possible with a view to building a common, non-exclusive portal able to offer the largest possible repertoire to online services on a pan-European basis.

Commissioner Kroes welcomed that concrete steps to improve consumer access to online music were being made following the Roundtable. Further steps should now be possible in light of the principles that were agreed by the Roundtable members. The Commission remains committed to work with the market in order to bring real benefits to consumers.

The joint statement from the Roundtable participants of 19 October 2009 on "general principles for the online distribution of music" can be consulted at:

http://ec.europa.eu/competition/sectors/media/joint_statement_1.pdf

The joint statement from EMI, PRS for Music, SACEM, STIM and Universal Music Publishing on a "Working Group on a Common Framework for Rights Ownership Information" can be consulted at:

http://ec.europa.eu/competition/sectors/media/joint_statement_2.pdf

Background

The first meeting of the Online Commerce roundtable (17 September 2008 – see IP/08/1338) was attended by EMI Music Publishing, Fiat, eBay, Apple/iTunes, Alcatel-Lucent, LVMH, Which? (UK consumers organization), SACEM (French collecting society for authors and composers) and Sir Mick Jagger and concerned both goods and services online, while the second (16 December 2008) focused on the online distribution of music and was limited to participants of the Roundtable concerned with this issue.

The proceedings resulted in the Online Commerce Roundtable Report on Opportunities and barriers to online retailing. The report is available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/competition/consultations/2009_online_commerce/roundtable_report_en.pdf

The Report was open to public consultation; related submissions can be consulted at:

http://ec.europa.eu/competition/consultations/2009_online_commerce/index.html

The third meeting (8 September 2009) was enlarged to other key players in the online music industry i.e. Amazon, Nokia, PRS for Music (UK collecting society), STIM (Swedish collecting society), Universal Music Publishing and the representatives of European consumers (BEUC - the European Consumers' Organisation).


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