Moves to open the market in the collection of music royalties have been condemned as “calamitous” for artistic creativity.
The attack came from the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC) after the European Commission banned restrictions which prevent royalty collecting agencies operating outside their national territories.
A Commission statement said the restrictions on competition operated by CISAC breached EU rules and had to end. This would allow music authors “to choose which collecting society manages their copyright, on the basis of quality of service, efficiency of collection and level of management fees deducted”.
At the moment the 24 collecting societies belonging to CISAC operate a system of exclusive domestic territories, preventing authors from choosing or moving to another collecting society. National organisations then arrange the collection of royalties for an artist’s music played in other territories.
EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said opening up the market would create competition by encouraging collecting societies to offer composers and lyricists better deals.
She added: “It will also facilitate the development of satellite, cable and internet broadcasting, giving listeners more choice and giving authors more potential revenue.
“However the Commission has been careful to ensure that the benefits of the collective rights management system are not out into question in terms of levels of royalties for authors and available music repertoire.”
But CISAC, headed by Bee Gee Robin Gibb, issued a statement claiming the move would lead to “a catastrophic fragmentation of repertoire and therefore to legal uncertainty for music users”.
It said the organisation was particularly surprised at the Commission assertion that the ban was somehow in the creative community’s interest.
The statement went on: “Loudly and clearly, but apparently to no avail, the creative community has told the Commission that the community remains deeply concerned about a decision which claims to act in the name of creators but which in fact is being imposed on them against their express wishes.
“Time and time again, the creator has pleaded that the Commission’s proposed course of action will lead to a calamitous decline in artistic creation, cultural diversity and creators’ income.”
Robin Gibb led a CISAC delegation to Brussels recently, urging the Commission not to alter the current European royalty collection system, under which the collecting societies effectively operate domestic monopolies.
The Commission ban was announced on the same day that the Commission also proposed good news for European musicians - an extension of copyright protection, enabling them and their families to receive royalties for 95 years instead of the current 50 years.