Page last updated at 10:44 GMT, Thursday, 3 July 2008 11:44 UK

Stars back music copyright system

Record disc
Music stars are worried copyright changes may mean lower royalties

Several music stars and composers gathered in Brussels on Thursday to campaign against proposed changes to the rules governing music copyright.

The European Commission is considering whether to end the monopoly of performing rights societies, which collect royalties for artists.

Music stars are worried that changes may mean a reduction in the amount record companies pay to music authors.

A decision is expected before the end of the month.

'Heavy handed'

The European Commission is looking at the current situation after two music companies voiced complaints that the collection agencies constituted monopolies or cartels in their domestic markets.

At the moment, most composers and songwriters sign up to their domestic collecting societies, which collect money from commercial music users on their behalf.

On an international level, each national European collecting society has a relationship with the other 25 representative bodies.

Commercial companies which want to distribute music across Europe normally have to sign deals with a number of these societies across the EU zone.

In practice it means that if a French radio station plays music by a UK artist, the French national collecting society collects the revenue.

It then passes it to the UK's national society, MCPS-PRS, which subsequently distributes it to the writer.

Critics believe that this process is too complex and gives the societies undue influence over music rights and distribution.

However, the European Composer and Songwriter Alliance (ECSA) , which counts Bee Gee Robin Gibb, Pedro Almodovar and Spanish singer Julio Iglesias among its supporters, is lobbying to prevent any change saying that the system operates adequately as it is.

It has also said any decision could be seen as "heavy handed" and "undemocratic", and could lead to protests against the Commission from several artists.

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