Proposals for a Europe-wide copyright and licensing system for online music have been put forward by the European Commission.
Online music stores have mushroomed in the past year
The aim is to help European online music services compete with those in the US.
Anyone interested in offering paid-for downloads has to deal with 25 different licensing bodies in the 25 nations that make up the European Union.
As a result, online music sales in Europe have lagged behind US sales.
Last year, people spent an estimated 207 million euros (US$248 million) on music downloads in the US, compared to 27.2 million euros (US$32.5 million) in Europe.
"The absence of pan-European copyright licences makes it difficult for new European-based online services to take off," said Internal Market and Services Commissioner Charlie McCreevy in a statement.
"This is why we are proposing the creation of Europe-wide copyrights clearance."
As well as dealing with national licensing bodies, online music stores also have to set up systems to collect royalty payments from each EU member state.
A single system governing music rights would save money and boost revenues for artists, according to the EU.
The proposal by the European Commission will now be discussed by member states and industry bodies.
EU officials hope agreement on a way to implement the idea can be reached by October.