Last week it was reported that another Publisher, Imagem Music, had chosen to takes its digital rights out of the direct responsibility of Collection Societies, and instead license directly with Dutch company Buma/Stemra, using Collection Societies as its administration agents.
All the Major Publishers have now created similar arrangements.
The move is of course fuelled by extraordinary and understandable frustration at the archaic practices and restrictions of some Collection Societies. These Societies often seem from the outside to have an agenda of their own irrespective of the wishes of members, and major content owners frequently no longer trust such Societies to make licensing decisions for them.
The problem with this kind of initiative from the point of view of business users is that it makes pan- territorial licensing even harder to achieve. Digital services wanting to be licensed for multi-territory activity have to do separate deals for Anglo American repertoire with each of the Majors, and companies like Imagem, and their respective Administration Agents, plus local deals with potentially numerous Collection Societies for local repertoire.
This places extra hurdles on the way to developing sustainable digital businesses in a world where they already have enough barriers to contend with. Namely, the cumbersome licensing process associated with clearing record rights and the considerable time and expense associated with negotiating licensing agreements generally. Meanwhile the EU seems no closer to its stated goal of simplifying pan-European Collective licensing.
At a time when deal-making desperately needs to be easier to grow the market for the benefit of everybody, steps like this make it harder.