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CISAC wins appeal in Europe

By | Published on Tuesday 16 April 2013


A long-running legal squabble in Europe over the music publishing sector’s collecting society system has reached a conclusion, with the General Court Of The European Union upholding an appeal against an EU Commission ruling in 2008 that accused the societies of operating “a concerted practice to restrict competition”.

European officials have long expressed concerns about the ways in which national collecting societies in the music publishing domain work alongside each other, with some arguing that agreements between societies, in particular reciprocal agreements that exist via the sector’s global alliance CISAC, conflict with European competition law, by stopping rival societies in Europe from competing with each other beyond their national boundaries.

When it comes to offering multi-territory licences, so that different national societies do start to compete on that side of things, there have been some shifts in recent years, partly due to pressure from European regulators and digital licensees, and partly as a result of the bigger societies recognising opportunities for growth. But none of that goes as far as some European officials would like.

This whole issue went legal because of two complaints about CISAC agreements in Europe in the early 2000s, with one element of those complaints subsequently being upheld by the Commission in 2008, ie that CISAC and its European members “violated EU competition rules by coordinating the territorial scope of their reciprocal representation agreements”. But the European courts did not concur when that ruling was appealed, and that judicial opinion was endorsed again this week.

Welcoming the new ruling, CISAC Director General Olivier Hinnewinkel told CMU: “This is a very important decision for authors and their collective management organisations throughout the European Union. It allows us to get back to the job of ensuring the three million creators and rights holders that we represent obtain a fair income from the use of their creative work, and to continue developing licensing models that meet the market’s needs”.

Of course this ruling, while a victory for CISAC and the collecting societies with regard to the specific complaints made a decade ago, doesn’t mean the European Commission won’t continue to put pressure on the rights agencies of Europe to more proactively compete. And, indeed, a new European directive is already in development on this whole issue.