Charlie McCreevy: 'Europe must make more of the online music revolution'

From a speech in London on music licensing and the creative economy by the European Commissioner for the Internal Market
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The Independent Online

The market for online music holds enormous potential that has yet to be realised. The digital market for music was worth $330m (£187m) in 2004 - estimates expect it to double in 2005. Fifty million portable music players were sold in 2004, including 10 million i-pods. All players in the industry stand to benefit from this growth.

But Europe does not appear to be making the most of these new opportunities and, unless it is better equipped to exploit this potential fully, it will continue to lag behind. There are important differences between the US and the European markets. Europe has greater cultural and linguistic diversity. And Europe's model of copyright clearance belongs more to the 19th century than to the 21st. In the 19th century, music was primarily performed in cafés, bars or music halls that needed to be monitored by local societies. But this is no longer the only or even most important way the Europeans consume music. The internet does not recognise borders. While technology has advanced, the way we license music has not kept pace.

If the illegal downloading of music is to be stamped out, we must make it easier - more practical and cost-efficient - to provide and receive legitimate online services. Making it easier to clear copyright and to secure Europe-wide licences is an essential part of this approach.

I have proposed a recommendation based on the premise that territory-by-territory copyright clearance is too cumbersome and costly. Our proposal sets forth an EU-wide licence in line with the ubiquity of the internet. Our package should stimulate EU-wide licensing and promote the growth of legitimate online music services.

We have to foster the internet by streamlining the process of copyright licensing. The current unsatisfactory arrangement of having to clear online rights in musical works is too costly and complex.