To add to Ben Challis’ report from Portcullis House, the event attendees were provided with a useful four page leaflet produced by Pictfor, co-the organisers of the event, for Consumer Focus . It led with the reminder that Recommendation 3 of Professor Hargreaves Report recommended that codes of practice for societies be introduced on the basis that the UK should be supporting moves in Europe for "a framework for cross border copyright licensing". Chris Johnstone from Music Choice, explained that the 2003 Music Choice complaint to Europe had been based upon a European licensing situation whereby potential digital users had to acquire licences for musical works from 4 j-v digital licensing bodies and 27 societies – and that is before one begins on the record labels. And British Copyright Council President, Maureen Duffy, reminded us that that the UK cannot possibly address this without reference to the plethora of international treaties and bodies (and anagrams) that operate in the sphere of IP regulation. Frances Lowe from PRS for Music, stressed that there was transparency of licensing tariff calculation – for users – and transparency of revenue calculations – for right owners. These are both commercially sensitive and need to be considered separately. These monopolies are managing a few strands of monopolistic rights and they have to serve both the user and the owner constituencies all the while balancing competition considerations against the demands of the single market.
So, for the benefit of those few collecting society junkies across the globe, who cannot get this subject entirely off their minds, Jeremy Silver’s answer to his own question deserves a wider airing. Silver reminded the gathering of the competition/single market balancing act and asked how we should proceed in the future – seeming to imply a rejection of new wine in old bottles as a solution. He endorsed the public need for public access to rights ownership – access which would make life simpler for would be licensees. This access to ownership data in the music publishing industry is being addressed by the Global Repertoire Database initiative. But, suggested Silver, the should be a detachment between the function of data gathering and management and the function of licensing, royalty collection and distribution. Those junkies should consider the model operating in Brazil. The CISAC website shows 11 collecting societies of varying stripes in Brazil. But the satellite system of membership bodies are circling a centralised data management system. I am sure there are readers of this blog who will be able to comment on issues such as transparency, competition for members, and probity (go, on, you know who you are), but Jeremy Silver’s wine bottle is out there, down in South America, just waiting for the Europeans to adopt for their terroir.