Yahoo! calls for uniform EU music licensing

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Yahoo! is calling on the EU to set up a uniform intellectual property rights regime. The Web portal wants to set up a music download service in Europe. But it says its efforts are hampered by the different licensing rules across the region.

That's according to Martina King, managing director, country operations, Yahoo! Europe, who was attending an informal summit of EU ministers of communications in Dundalk, Ireland on Thursday (22 April). The meeting included a CEO Roundtable, where the heads of many of Europe's biggest ICT companies communicated their concerns about broadband rollout in the EU to the ministers.

"I have to say I was very impressed," King told ElectricNews.Net. "The ministers were very knowledgeable and seemed genuinely concerned about broadband. It was a surprise, because I came here not expecting much. I just wanted to make sure that my concerns were heard."

Chief among her worries is the lack of co-ordination in Europe on intellectual property rights policy. This non-uniformity makes it difficult to ink deals with music providers, she said. "As it is now, we have to negotiate [music download rights] in every country, and the terms are different in each. It is not like the US, which is a single market."

Her concerns were also echoed in a report released in Dundalk by more than a dozen high-tech firms, including Alcatel, OD2, Telecom Italia, AP, AOL Europe and Cisco. The report, prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers, was submitted to the ministers at the event. It called for stronger and more unified policies thoughout the 25-state bloc on issues such as spam, broadband rollout and uptake, and implementation of e-government services. It also said that EU governments need to put in place a common regulatory framework for digital services that "does not hinder the development of new business models and services in the broadband market."

Another priority in the report - one that is close to King's heart - was a call for the EU communications ministers to develop a balanced and unified approach to protecting intellectual property rights. The group of companies behind the report said tsupport the recent and highly controversial Directive on Intellectual Property Enforcement, "because it aims to harmonise minimum IPR enforcement rules throughout the enlarged EU."

But, the PwC-prepared report also noted that not everyone is on board. "Whereas service providers wish to be able to use digital content on reasonable terms, on a pan-European basis, content owners are opposed to government intervention in the process of commercial negotiation...There is therefore a real need to develop a consensus between content owners and service providers," said the report presented to the EU ministers.

In other comments, King said Yahoo! would be "very interested" in launching a co-branded broadband product in Ireland, similar to the BT Yahoo" broadband product on offer in the UK. She could not confirm if Yahoo! was in talks with any Irish telcos to launch such a product.

© ENN

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