Frequently Asked Questions
What is the nature of the problem the dialogue concerns?
It is widely acknowledged that the way music rights are presently managed was designed for territory-by-territory exploitation of physical products, rather than for the digital environment where services need to “look global” and allow consumers from multiple countries to easily access large collections of copyrighted materials. The manual licensing of music country-by-country for the same content multiple times, though generally from different right holders, creates widespread inefficiency and leads to high costs in acquiring legal licenses to commercialize music. This is multiplied for every territory in which a service wishes to operate. The current music rights management system also faces other problems:
- Each provider must develop expensive complex rights management systems using custom-developed software in order to interact with the different rights management systems of right holders in each country. This reduces providers’ flexibility in setting fees for their services and also reduces the amount that service providers can offer in licensing revenue.
- The fragmented availability of works requires that the same service provide different works and performances depending on the country in which a customer is based, with no apparent way for users to acquire legal access to all material - even though they can often see that particular works are available to users elsewhere.
- The manual nature of licensing (and the costs of licensing in this way) guarantees that many works for which commercial success is not assured are largely, or entirely, unavailable legally to consumers. However, the nature of the Internet makes global availability of these works from unlicensed services easy - and creates an incentive for the unscrupulous to meet the legally unmet demand.
- The complexity and cost of the licensing process creates a significant barrier to the development of innovative content services. This is due to the large number of entities from which service providers must acquire the various rights.
The concern across the industry is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to compete with free internet access to music and to convince consumers accustomed to having easy and convenient access to music from non-legal sites to start paying for it - and that the longer this situation continues, the more difficult it will be to “retrain” especially younger music lovers to use paid services.
This points to the need to create an international system that brings together the different rights management systems used in different countries through electronic interfaces, making it much easier and cheaper for services to gain legal access to rights and, ultimately, to license them.
The first step - getting the stakeholders together to discuss the first principles
In order to create such a system, the organizing committee of this dialogue invited a key group of high-level stakeholders from the music industry to meet to discuss the following issues:
- The proposition that an international registry of rights is an essential prerequisite to healthy, multi-territory licensing of music in the digital world;
- The high-level principles underpinning such a registry;
- The institution that could be the “home” and operator of such a system and that would be trusted by licensors, licensees and governments to administer common international resource;
- Moving forward and next steps.
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) offered to host this meeting in November 2010, and provided technical services, as well as made its experts available to provide information requested by the dialogue as its members required.
Who organized the first meeting related to the dialogue?
The organizing committee of the initial meeting was, in alphabetical order:
- Jim Griffin, Managing Director of OneHouse LLC. He started and runs Choruss LLC, incubated by Warner Music Group. Choruss successfully built a new model for sound recordings, sharing music with flat-fee access for universities. Before that, he started and ran the technology department at Geffen Records for five years, where he led the team that distributed the first full-length commercial song online (by Aerosmith).
- Bendik Hofseth, chair of the International Council of Authors and Composers of Music (CIAM), is the only body representing all composers members of the more than 200 CISAC member societies for authors of musical works. Bendik is also a successful composer and performer in his own right and a part-time university professor.
- Peter Jenner, a manager of featured artists for almost 40 years, acts for clients as diverse as Pink Floyd, the Clash, and Billy Bragg. He is a past Chairman of the International Music Managers Forum and Board member of the UK Music Managers Forum.
How did the dialogue come about?
Every year for the past several years, Peter Jenner and Bendik Hofseth have organized a “Mid-Summer Thoughtfest” for a group of friends, colleagues and visionary thinkers in the music industry. At the 2010 event, there was wide interest in a global registry of rights and, as a result, the dialogue organizers asked the international organization responsible for intellectual property (IP), WIPO, whether it could provide facilities and support for the discussions.
Given the need for broad buy-in for such an initiative, will the work plan incorporate broader engagement?
Absolutely. In organizing the first meeting in November 2010, it was considered that a small group dynamic would best be able to reach a consensus on a solid first draft of high-level foundational principles for an international registry. This would also best enable a cross-industry group of influential leaders to compare views on the issues and benefits associated with such a registry. This working model has been retained, but this is not a closed group open only to those invited. For further information, please see the Get Involved page.
The Consultative Committee of the initiative has published the foundational principles (called "Basic Principles") on this site and is requesting, via these mechanisms for stakeholder input, global comments from stakeholder communities. Sign up to receive notice of important opportunities to voice your views on the Get Involved page.
How does this initiative relate to the effort sponsored by a group of eight international organizations in Europe (known as the GRD Working Group), initiated by the European Commission?
Initially, this process was entirely separate from that effort. The GRD Working Group focuses on developing a single database that will provide information about the global repertoire of musical works, their ownership and the identity of the entity authorized to issue licenses for the musical works. Its next stage will involve global discussions among a broader and more representative group of stakeholders. The IMR and the work of the GRD Working Group are entirely complementary in that a “musical work GRD” will need to be linked in some way to other data across the broader global music industry. The two efforts will work together to achieve this.
Is there any potential conflict between the IMR and other initiatives to share information among stakeholders in the music sector?
None at all. On the contrary, experience in other areas of IP which have long ago established international registries (several of which are administered by WIPO), shows that many national and regional registries connect to one another through the international registry. Music stakeholders will still need to share information at the regional and national level – especially within a particular sector, and the IMR would seek to complement but not to discourage such efforts.