Apple Wants Single EU-Wide Copyright, iTunes License

imageApple (NSDQ: AAPL) has called for a Europe-wide copyright to be created so that it can offer iTunes Store more easily in eastern Europe and other countries. The proposal, which it says is “as opposed to the current country-by-country basis of national copyrights,” is among suggestions included in a report for the European Commission, jointly authored with EMI, eBay (NSDQ: EBAY) and others…

Steve Jobs, iTunes VP Eddy Cue, EMI Music Publishing CEO Roger Faxon and other companies have compiled the report after September and December meetings with EC competition commissioner Neelie Kroes, who, together with media commissioner Viviane Reding, is looking for ways to harmonize Europe’s increasingly fragmented IP licencing framework. Though Kroes last year told royalty-collection societies around Europe to abandon their national exclusivity on composers’ rights, obtaining music rights for online services was made even more complex recently by some publishers withdrawing their rights from those societies.

Apple is asking the EC to stop publishers from doing this and also wants a Europe-wide database comprising information from the various societies: “The overwhelming number of negotiation partners and the lack of information as to who owns which rights are the biggest problems for iTunes … If the conditions for clearing rights are substantially improved, in particular iTunes would agree to consider making its offering available to all European consumers, including those from the eastern European countries where iTunes is currently not available.”

Though iTunes is available in 15 EU countries, availability isn’t continent-wide because “many of the countries do not offer a large enough marketplace to justify the expense and effort required to sell in that country”, Apple said separately.

Unlike Apple, EMI says competition amongst royalty societies is a good thing, citing its own creation of its CELAS society with Britain’s PRS and Germany’s GEMA, and French collector SACEM is opposing Europe’s harmonisation effort. But Kroes seems encouraged, has invited industry consultation by June 30, urged the companies to move “quickly” and is planning to convene the companies again.