Digital Rights Management and Rights Licensing in the Online Music Sector: A Case for Cultural Diversity?

Katharine Sarikakis


Digital technologies have fundamentally altered the ways in which cultural content is produced, distributed, accessed and enjoyed. Ensuring easy access to digital content online in general and music works in particular has generated a heated debate at the European Union (EU) level over copyright management. Accounting for this has been the longstanding territorial structure of copyright, that is, the practice of clearing rights for the lawful use of copyright protected content on a territorially limited basis - an element that was left untouched by EU harmonisation. With a view to promoting the expansion of digital music services in Europe and their broad uptake, the European Commission (Commission) has sought to encourage models of collective rights management that guarantee a one-stop shop for multi-territorial, pan-European rights clearance. Action initially built on non-binding legislative instruments and the application of EU competition rules. In July 2012, it culminated in a proposal for a Directive on collective rights management and the multi-territorial licensing of rights in musical works for online uses (European Commission, 2012e). In February 2014, the relevant Directive was adopted by the European Parliament and the Council of the EU (Council) (European Parliament and Council, 2014b).

This chapter discusses collective rights management and its impact on cultural diversity in the music sector, in view of the development of the EU's policy in the field. The analysis examines the extent to which cultural diversity considerations have been given consideration in the steps taken to improve the efficiency of collective rights management while fostering a system of multi-territorial licensing for the online exploitation of music works. In doing so, the chapter situates collective rights management within the broader context of the governance of copyright. It considers the digital environment as one that continues to pose challenges to established forms of monetisation of final users' interest in musical content. In this context, digital rights management, in particular, is viewed as a task but also as a policy objective that is inextricably connected to the debate on the role of collecting societies and right-holders vis-a-vis end-users, that is the public. Overall, it becomes apparent that in the discussion of collective rights management, the public is entirely absent. This is at odds with the notion of cultural diversity as a policy goal that ultimately concerns European publics. The chapter concludes with an overview of the recent EU Directive on collective rights management and points of critique in relation to its proclaimed aims.

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