* Bill aims to give artists more control over copyright
* Royalties to be paid 12 months after play
* Firms can write off royalties with no owner after 5 yrs
By Claire Davenport
BRUSSELS, July 9 The European Union has drafted
a new bill to combat music piracy and strengthen copyright
protection which would force companies that manage music rights
to pay artists their royalties more speedily.
Musicians, however, say the draft law would only release a
tiny fraction of the royalties they are owed and do nothing to
unlock royalties made from gigging, clubs and private copying.
"It is time that the money collected in our name reaches the
rightful author in a timely manner instead of being spent on
marble car parks," said Kelvin Smits from the artists' lobby
Younison, which represents big names like Pink Floyd, Radiohead
and the Dutch trance DJ Armin van Buuren.
The European Commission will present the bill on Wednesday,
its second attempt to bring collecting societies into line.
These firms manage music rights and collect the fees due to
singers, producers, composers and other contributors to a piece
of music when it is played.
In a draft law seen by Reuters, EU regulators say poor
financial management of collecting societies' revenues - among
other problems - has weakened copyright within the EU, helping
to make Europe prime ground for websites offering pirated music.
The draft law would give collecting societies 12 months
after the financial year in which a track was played to pay up -
or about half the time companies currently have in many
The regulators also demand more clarity on the fees
musicians must pay the societies collecting their dues from
radio stations or websites streaming their work.
The Commission's attempts to combat piracy and protect
copyright have faced some resistance from the public. Last week,
the European Parliament rejected an international agreement to
stop piracy because of concerns it would criminalise individuals
sharing songs on the Internet - a decision seen as a victory of
opponents of the deal, which had been negotiated by the
Wednesday's draft law would also lay out guidelines so that
collecting societies separate royalty revenues from investments
and become subject to supervision by composers and other
musicians who hold the intellectual property rights.
"Collecting societies should be required to invoice service
providers and to distribute amounts due to rights-holders
without delay," the draft says.
To tackle the proliferation of pirated music, the draft
wants to make it easier for websites that stream music, like
Spotify, to get licences covering multiple countries, so artists
get their work heard by a wider audience.
And if artists cannot get a collecting society to license
their work in multiple countries, they can grant their own
licences, following the business model in the United States.
The proposed law must be taken up by the European Parliament
and approved by member states.
The commission's clean-up stems from allegations by artists
that companies swallow royalties rightly due to the performer or
The Spanish competition authority fined collecting society
SGAE 1.7 million euros ($2.09 million) earlier this month for
abusing its dominant position.
Artists say the draft law may tackle the distribution of
online rights but will do little to unlock the remaining 95
percent of royalties made from gigging, clubs and private
The draft law gives societies permission to keep royalties
that have not found their rightful artists after five years.
Smits of the Younison lobby says this puts at risk more than
5.7 billion euros in royalties collected but not paid to the
rights-holders. Younison calculated the figure during an
investigation into Europe's main collecting societies in 2010.
"This draft law institutionalises the vested interests of
the power-brokers around the table of collecting societies,"
The lobby says artists in Europe see just 1-10 percent of
their owed royalties. It also says that collecting societies
have an incentive in delaying the payment to artists because
they rely on revenue from royalties and subsequent interest.
Younison has praised the model used by the British society
PRS, which can earn a commission of up 20 percent on new
Societies say they are not the problem, piracy is.
"The fact is that competition from illegal services offering
the same product for free is too great an obstacle for many
operators, particularly small stakeholders, to embark on risky
cross-border or pan-European ventures," said the European
Grouping of Societies of Authors and Composers (GESAC), which
represents 34 societies.
($1 = 0.8126 euros)
(Reporting by Claire Davenport; Editing by Rex Merrifield and