VP OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION and the person responsible for the Digital Agenda for Europe, Neelie Kroes has introduced the idea of much simpler music licensing for Europe.
The idea follows the recent showdown over the ACTA treaty in the European Parliament, and Kroes takes a different view from that of some of her music loving peers and has the music industry rather than downloaders in her sights.
In a blog post she writes that last week's vote on ACTA was a "reminder about the big debate currently going on, about how to balance intellectual property rights with Internet freedoms".
Kroes, like ACTA supporters, uses the argument that this is for the artists. "For me it's about making it easier for artists to promote their work widely, and make a living from it: without constraining the immense innovation of the online world. And, for me, the current copyright system achieves all of those objectives poorly," she explains.
Today the Commission took a big step forward in reforming copyight for the digital age. My blog: blogs.ec.europa.eu/neelie-kroes/c…— Neelie Kroes (@NeelieKroesEU) July 11, 2012
However, while ACTA supporters favoured an agreement that the ancient Athenian ruler Draco would have been interested in learning more about, Kroes intends to do things differently.
"That's why I'm convinced we need to reform copyright for the digital age. For me, merely making enforcement more and more heavy-handed is not the solution - especially if it results in draconian measures like cutting off internet access," she says.
A good way to do this, she says, is to make it easier to legally, and legally is underlined, access the content that people want. Presently, this is just too hard.
"If you're in Belgium, for example, licensing restrictions often prevent you legally buying MP3 downloads from other EU countries - even though you could buy the physical CD online and have it posted," says Kroes.
"Those restrictions to buying cross-border are not just a barrier to our single market: they're also frustrating for citizens, they prevent artists getting proper reward and recognition, and they make it harder for new ideas like Spotify to spread across the EU."
Kroes then welcomes and backs proposed licensing rules from the Commission, but expects that the path through the rest of Europe might not be so smooth.
"Our proposal needs to be agreed by the European Parliament and Council," she adds. "Some previous attempts by us to modernise copyright rules - like our relatively modest proposal on orphan works - were significantly watered down by the legislator. This time I hope the Parliament and Council are more aware of the views citizens have expressed: that people love the openness of the Internet, and want easier access to more content."
But, while Kroes nods in the direction of those people that say that it's "piracy" that's the problem, and gives them a knowing look, the Commission swings a punch at them and says that it is music collection agencies that are causing the problem.
The proposals say that rightsholders should be properly remunerated, and that sales and sales systems across Europe should be more transparent. They recommend cross territorial licensing and simpler Internet licensing, which, as Kroes has explained, would make it a lot easier for artists to sell their products in different countries and make more money from them.
Stopping this is the old way of doing things. The Commission says that royalty collection businesses, of which there are many, are not dealing with the internet adequately and are coming between artists and their money.
"We need a European digital Single Market that works for creators, consumers and service providers. More efficient collecting societies would make it easier for service providers to roll out new services available across borders - something that serves both European consumers and cultural diversity," said Commissioner for Internal Market and Services Michel Barnier.
"All collecting societies should ensure that creators are rewarded more quickly for their work and must operate with full transparency. This is paramount to sustaining investment in creativity and innovation which will in turn lead to additional growth and increased competitiveness." µ