If you have a free Spotify account in the UK, you cannot use it in France for more than 14 days. If you have a premium account from UK, you can listen only to that music which has been licensed in the UK, even if you are physically in France. This results from the way music rights are licensed or sold as per territories. In an attempt to shake up the copyright regime in Europe and to allow Europeans to access their online services wherever they go, the EU is now reforming the system by which music rights are licensed. It is doing so by bringing competition to the business of collective rights management through the EU’s Directive on CMOs (Collective Management Organizations) due to be implemented in April 2016. It requires CMOs to compete with each other for members (the right holders they represent) and to become transparent in the way they operate.
But, academic experts have deduced that this will not work, and indeed may make the situation worse for music lovers. The EU sees the problem as: national monopolies creating the phenomenon of ‘geoblocking’, and the answer as: competition between collective rights organisations. In the latest entry in CREATe’s Working Paper Series, a study conducted by CREATe investigators Morten Hviid (University of East Anglia) and John Street (University of East Anglia), along with Simone Schroff (University of Amsterdam), researchers compared the experience of setting up a traditional broadcasting service with that of setting up a streaming service and were led to a different conclusion to that of the EU. The study argues that the problem does not stem from the absence of competition but from the underlying copyright regime and the lack of a single, reliable source of data on many of the key questions: from who owns what rights to what charges are levied for licenses. The researchers fear that the EU strategy is likely to lead to a music market increasingly dominated by the big players, in which the smaller players and repertoires are marginalised. As such, it will not advance the cause of the EU digital single market or of frustrated Spotify subscribers away from home.