Thursday 27 October 2011

Governance for UK collecting societies: your chance to have a say

The UK remains one of just three European countries which does not provide statutory supervision and minimum standards for collecting societies. This is either a good thing, because British collecting societies are so sensitive to the interests of licensees, members and the market at large that they are in no need of regulation -- or it may be a serious omission which requires urgent attention in order to safeguard a plethora of competing interests in a rapidly-changing world.

There's no doubt which of those positions appealed to the Hargreaves Review, which recommended the imposition of a legislative framework within which collecting societies should have to adopt doubly-approved codes of practice, blessed by both the Intellectual Property Office and the competition authorities, to ensure that they operate in a way that is consistent with the further development of efficient, open markets. The UK government has agreed -- but still has to fathom out how best to transfer this aspiration into reality.

Like owls, many of the most successful panelists are those
who look pretty knowledgeable but don't actually say anything ...
Now for the exciting bit. In just under a fortnight, a special event has been laid on for the purpose of sampling, in the discreet and cosy atmosphere of the House of Parliament:, the views of stakeholders, whatever their stake.  The event, "Copyright collecting societies: does the UK need minimum standards?", is fixed for Tuesday 8 November, and is split into two halves: (i) there's a panel event from 6 to 8pm in Committee Room 7; (ii) a reception will then be held from 8 to 10pm, Dining Room R (Portcullis House).  To attend, email the organisers here.

For the record, the fare on offer at the reception has not been divulged.  Panelists on the menu, however, are as follows: 
  Dr Stef van Gompel, postdoc researcher Institute for Information Law (IViR) at the University of Amsterdam. Stef has written on supervision of collecting societies in Europe and is secretary of the Dutch Copyright Committee, which advises the Minister of Justice of the Netherlands on copyright. He will give an overview of how different European countries supervise collecting societies. See Collective Management in the European Union 
  Frances Lowe, head of regulatory and corporate affairs at PRS for Music. PRS is the only UK based collecting society that has adopted a Code of Practice in a ‘commitment to be easy to do business with’. Frances will talk about the process leading up to the adoption of the Code, and the role of the independent Ombudsman. See the PRS Code of Practice and the PRS Members Code 
  Brigid Simmonds OBE, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA). Following a 200-300 percent increase of PPL’s licensing tariff for background music the BBPA and the British Hospitality Association won a Copyright Tribunal case in 2010 which resulted in PPL having to refund £20 million to retail and hospitality businesses. Brigid will talk about why the BBPA supports minimum standards for collecting societies. See the joint submission of the BBPA and the BHA on the Hargreaves Review to the Business Innovation and Skills committee inquiry
  Chris Johnstone, head of legal at Music Choice. Music Choice’s 2003 complaint against collecting societies led to the so called CISAC decision in 2008, where European authorities ruled that European music collecting societies’ reciprocal agreements violated competition law. Chris will explain why Music Choice originally brought the complaint, give a music user’s perspective on what has happened since then and reflect on whether minimum standards could help to make copyright licensing fit for the digital age. See Interview with Chris Johnstone on CISAC complaint

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