Event: Copyright collecting societies: does the UK need minimum standards?

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. 

RSVP administration@pictfor.org.uk

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.”

The Government accepted this recommendation because, “like the Review, the Government has heard a range of concerns about the operation of copyright collecting societies in the UK and elsewhere: from members on questions of transparency and governance, and from licensees concerning what they see as heavy-handed, misleading or unfair practice in charging for usage of works.”

Pictfor and Consumer Focus are inviting you to join a wide range of stakeholders to discuss Prof Hargreaves recommendation.

Copyright licensing is the wiring behind the scenes consumers don’t see. The 10+ UK based collecting societies are central to the cost effective mass use of copyrighted content; allowing the use, performance and retailing of copyrighted works in broadcasting, education, hospitality and entertainment, as well as online and mobile commerce. Therefore collecting societies are the backbone of competitive and innovative markets in copyrighted content. However, collecting societies typically do not have to compete for members or licensees and in order to ensure that they do not abuse their monopoly they are subject to varying degrees of supervision in most industrialised countries.
Successive copyright reviews, including the 1952 Gregory Report and the 1977 Whitford Report, referred to anti-competitive practices by UK collecting societies. The two UK music collecting societies were found to violate competition law by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission in 1988 and 1996 respectively. Yet the UK never established minimum standards for collecting societies.


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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