The European Commission on Thursday proposed a single Europe-wide copyright and licensing system for on-line music, to boost the European Union’s music business.

EU Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy said European on-line services had to be improved to make copyrights cheaper for artists to obtain.

“We have to improve the licensing of music copyright on the Internet,” McCreevy said, adding such a system would ensure “Europe’s creative community will get the lion’s share in revenues achieved on-line.”

Currently artists have to secure copyrights in each of the EU’s 25 member nations, with each country requiring separate copyrights for the right to transmit songs over the Internet, a complex and expensive process the EU head office said.

As a result of these costs, on-line music sales in Europe have lagged behind those in the United States. Last year, the U.S. had an estimated $248-million (U.S.) in on-line music sales compared with Europe’s $32.5-million.

Musicians make money from their music after registering copyrights with collective rights managers. Those managers then license songs to on-line services, radio stations, dance clubs and other outlets. All these registrations are complex and costs artists a lot of money.

The EU head office said a single system governing music rights would save money.

“The most effective model for achieving this is to enable right-holders to authorize a collecting society of their choice to manage their works across the entire EU,” said the Commission in a statement, adding such a system would “considerably enhance” earnings for artists.

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