Copyright Collecting Societies: does the UK need minimum standards?

Portcullis House: Tuesday the 8th November, panel event 6 to 8pm, the Attlee Suite, reception 8 to 10pm. This was a very well attended event with over 70 people in the room, so well attended in fact that we  were forced to move from  a small room in the Committee Corridor to the  much larger Attlee Suite in Portcullis House.  Consumer Focus sponsored this event and provided useful  materials  (Consumer Focus briefing on Hargreaves minimum standards for collecting societies) to support what was a very well informed discussion about  what Collecting Societies do and what they could do better. The UK is one of only three countries in Europe which does not have statutory supervision and minimum standards for collecting societies. In his Review of IP and Growth Prof Hargreaves recommended “collecting societies should be required by law to adopt codes of practice, approved by the IPO and the UK competition authorities, to ensure that they operate in a way that is consistent with the further development of efficient, open markets.”

You can read more about  this PICTFOR  ‘public engagement’ or open event in the  1709 blog 

Well well well, a very interesting night at Portcullis House at the UK’s Houses of Parliament with a distinguished panel, chaired by Eric Joyce MP, and with at least two senior judges in the audience, and three – yes three – 1709 bloggers in attendance! Lets take that last point first – as myself (Ben), the newly re-installed Amanda (Harcourt) and John (Enser) were all in attendance at the interesting discussion on the whys, where’s and wherefores of Collection Societies in the digital age – in the UK – in Europe – and globally. The nice thing about this panel discussion was it wasn’t all about content owners ….. was it?

Mike Collins (music performer and producer) has also  written a really useful account in his blog.

Most memorable for me was Dr Stef van Grompel giving a very useful overview and comparison of collecting societies across Europe. He ranked Germany as the best and UK as the worst in regulating collecting societies effectively.  It was also vey interesting hearing from a wide range of  knowledgeable people (technical, legal and creative) none more so than two high court judges, one of whom called for  ‘a new copyright law’  during the discussion; read  Emma Barraclough’s blog post in Managing Copyright  for more on that. There was a great deal of discussion about the role (s) of collecting societies and how they can do better. Some people equate that improvement with being more transparent  in their organisational processes but most agreed that collecting societies need to adapt and evolve. There was one dominant theme, the evolving  role of collecting societies in building a useful database  as a social good.

The speakers were: 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. SeeCollective 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. SeeInterview with Chris Johnstone on CISAC complaint

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