Public Interest in Collective Licensing #iaspm2017

Richard Osborne, University of Middlesex (UK)

‘Where is the Public Interest in Collective Licensing?’

Queen Anne

Queen Anne. Not even the implementation of a groundbreaking copyright act during her reign could cheer her up.

ABSTRACT: In 1841, Lord Macaulay argued that copyright ‘produces all the effects which … mankind attributes to monopoly … to make articles scarce, to make them dear, and to make them bad’. Popular music has witnessed the reverse. The music industries’ most obvious monopolies are the collection societies. Collective licensing makes music abundant (blanket licence schemes, in particular, provide unfettered access to music) and it prices it democratically (all music costs the same). Collective licensing has shaped our musical environments. It is the reason why, in theory, any song can be broadcast or played in public premises. It is being weakened. Artists, labels and publishers are withdrawing from licensing schemes for streaming. Entrepreneurs are proposing blockchain systems that will do away with the need for collection societies. It is licensors and licensees who have dominated narratives about collective licensing. Questions of ‘public’ interest have been focused on how much businesses should pay and how much creators should receive. It is the argument of this paper that music consumers need to enter these debates. If collective licensing is eroded then music will become more expensive and scarce.

Richard’s favourite form of music, he says, is blanket licensing! He intends to advocate, today, for the needs of the public. Are [copyright] monopolies always inherently ‘evil’?

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