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October 22, 2009

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EU makes progress to boost sales of music

The European Union's top antitrust official Neelie Kroes yesterday described a deal among Apple Inc's iTunes, music companies, distributors and online licensing groups as a "great breakthrough" that would roll out more Internet music sales across Europe.
The companies and rights holders agreed at talks held on Tuesday to work on EU-wide licenses that would allow online music tracks to be sold more widely in the region.
Internet music downloads in Europe lag behind those in the United States, pulling in just a fraction of revenues the record industry is losing from falling CD sales.
Part of the problem in Europe is that music rights are sold separately in each country. That has prevented Apple Inc's iTunes from setting up a single store to service all of Europe.
Instead, it has to seek licenses from each EU member state where it wishes to sell and to set up separate national stores - which have different music selections.
Kroes said participants agreed that current licensing is "too complex and burdensome and that simpler licensing solutions are needed."
Participating in the talks were Amazon, EMI, iTunes, Nokia, Universal, PRS for Music, music rights management groups SACEM and STIM and the European consumers' organization BEUC.
Diverse portfolio
The companies and groups said they would seek to add the "widest possible" portfolio of music to any European licenses.
They also vowed to "facilitate the way in which music for online use is licensed such that the market grows and consumers benefit."
They said rights owners - composers and performers - should only sign up to such licenses voluntarily, aiming to soothe worries from some artists who complain that they might lose money if an EU-wide license replaces a series of national licenses.


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