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Sunday, 25 November 2012

Pan-European licensing is happening ... but have policy makers noticed?

A couple of days ago on The 1709 Blog Ben reported on the latest developments in the UK Digital Copyright Exchange (DCE) saga.
As IPKat readers may remember, the adoption of a DCE was first proposed by Prof Ian Hargreaves in his 2011 report entitled Digital Opportunity - A Review of Intellectual Property and Growth. The report had been commissioned at the end of 2010 by UK Prime Minister David Cameron with a view to assess whether IP framework was sufficiently well designed to promote innovation and growth in the UK economy. Hargreaves found that some reforms were needed, especially in the field of copyright. Among the other things, the report recommended the adoption of a cross sectoral DCE. This is to be intended as "a network of interoperable databases to provide a common platform [ie a one-stop shop] for licensing transactions". 
Merpel is confident that
the Copyright Hub
will look like this
What a DCE could possibly involve was clarified a few months later by Richard Hooper and Ros Lynch in their report on how to streamline copyright licensing for the digital age. They recommended the creation of "a not-for-profit, industry-led Copyright Hub based in the UK that would link interoperably and scalably to the growing national and international network of private and public sector digital copyright exchanges, rights registries and other copyright-related databases, using agreed cross-sectoral and cross-border data building blocks and standards, based on voluntary, opt-in, non-exclusive and pro-competitive principles."
While all these reports were being commissioned and prepared, and discussion on how to facilitate pan-European licensing was ensuing at the EU level, till the point of becoming Commission's No 1 priority (see here and here), three major EU collecting societies (these being French SACEM, Spanish SGAE and Italian SIAE) joined forces and created Armonia.
Apparently Armonia is the first pan-European hub for licensing of online services. It gathers more than 5.5m works (the rights of which are managed by the three collecting societies), and addresses online exploitation and/or mobile uses over a territory of 35 countries.
Armonia is in fact intended to work as a one-stop shop allowing users to obtain more easily multi-territory licences to use an essential repertoire, in line with the objectives of transparency and efficiency envisaged also in the recent Commission’s proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on collective management of copyright and related rights and multi-territorial licensing of rights in musical works for online uses in the internal market (see here and here). 
Armonia has just signed its first agreement with Google, which has thus been granted access to the repertoires managed by the three collecting societies (amongst the others, SGAE represents Sony Latin, Peer Latin and SPA, while SACEM represents Universal Music Publishing International). The deal was reached shortly after the introduction of Google Play into France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. 
Also Tiago's hits will be 
available on Google Play
Sami Valkonen, head of music licensing at Google commented: 

"We’re thrilled to have reached an agreement with the Armonia societies. Licenses such as this are important in ensuring that artists and rights-holders are rewarded fairly for their creative endeavours, and digital service providers are able to bring innovative services to market for the benefit of European consumers. Armonia is a welcome development in the on-going reform of pan-territorial licensing in Europe in helping simplify and speed-up the music-licensing process, which is crucial in fostering ongoing rapid innovation by digital music service providers".
According to SIAE vice director general Manlio Mallia, 

"The Armonia licensing hub operates for the benefit of the right owners and of the Digital Service providers. It is therefore a step in the direction indicated by the European Commission and anticipates what is aimed at in the proposal of Directive on collective management on the re-aggregation of repertoires. It can be seen as a step for the implementation of the European Digital Agenda."
Could it possibly be that pragmatic approaches to copyright-related issues have been proving more efficient than 1, 10, 100 policy reports? Merpel is inclined to respond 'yes'. At least they do not involve 1, 10, 100m pages to read, she muses. 

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