CISAC responds to royalty reform critics


BRUSSELS -- CISAC, the umbrella organization for the world's collection societies on Thursday responded to severe objections to its planned reforms.

It accused its critics of cynically seeking any means possible to drive down the fees required for the use of music.

The charge comes after media and telecoms giants slammed CISAC's concessions to the European Commission as costly and inefficient.

CISAC says its concessions will enable composers and other rights owners to choose the collecting society best placed to meet their respective needs, including multi-territorial licenses for online usage.

But companies like RTL Group, Liberty Global, Pro Sieben Sat.1, significant users of music, asked the Commission to reject the reform commitments.

In a letter also signed by commercial television association ACTE, Cable Europe, as well as Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom, and Orange, they said CISAC's plans would undermine the current system of licensing the global music repertoire as a single package.

Following their negative response, CISAC suggested they were faking concerns for creators and copyright-holders.

"CISAC was naturally delighted to read the statements in the user's letter 'vehemently supporting' the cause of the individual creator and espousing concerns about cultural diversity," CISAC said in its own statement. "Nevertheless, coming from the conglomerates in question, the arguments sounded rather like the fox asking to guard the hen coop."

In its strongly-worded statement, CISAC added, "One must not forget the avowed aim of certain powerful music users which have openly and without the slightest hint of embarrassment signalled their wish to provoke a 'race to the bottom' on the royalties due to creators (the vast majority of whom struggle to make ends meet)."

But the spat did not end there. The media and telecom giants were quick to retaliate against CISAC's latest statement.

"It is neither an avowed nor hidden aim of any of the companies that subscribed to the letter to provoke a race to the bottom for copyright royalties," said a spokesperson for the companies.

"On the contrary, broadcasters and other media companies are reliant on diverse and vibrant music offering. It is because this cultural diversity is endangered, and because the competition concerns have not been addressed, that the companies commented on the commitments.|"

CISAC's concessions earlier this year came after the Commission, the European Union's antitrust authority, began investigating the licensing arrangements. It found that CISAC was operating a de facto monopoly for collecting societies to gather royalties for artists from Internet sites and through satellite and cable broadcasting.

The letter from the media giants will add to the Commission's ongoing efforts to overhaul licensing mechanisms.