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Judge bans European-wide online music rights

PRS versus Dutch Buma

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The UK's Performing Right Society has won a court case over its Dutch equivalent, Buma, preventing the issuing of a Europe-wide licence for online rights.

On 19 July 2008, Buma announced that it had issued such a licence to US online music provider Beatport and claimed that it was for worldwide repertoire, including that controlled by PRS. In 2006 Buma had issued a similar license to American online company eMusic.

However, Buma wasn't authorised to include PRS repertoire in any multi-territory licence, anywhere outside the Netherlands. PRS sought an urgent injunction to prevent Buma from continuing to breach the contract.

A judge in Haarlem confirmed that collection societies cannot issue licences without the consent of rights holders and ordered Buma to refrain from granting licences that offered the use of PRS repertoire outside the Netherlands. Buma says it may appeal, after European Union competition commissioner Neelie Kroes concluded that "collecting societies totally eliminate competition between each other".

Under new EU rules composers will no longer be obliged to register with the collecting society in their home territory. Although the commission won the backing of trade lobby the European Digital Media Association, the collection agencies themselves aren't too happy. Last month PRS said that multi-territorial licensing is better left to market developments. ®

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