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Pan-European iTunes Store more likely following recent moves


European regulators this week are pushing the music industry to reform licensing terms that have prevented services like Apple's iTunes Store from selling their catalog of music tracks uniformly across the continent.

Most musicians profit from their work only after they register copyrights with collective rights managers, or collecting agencies, who then turn around and license the artists' songs to digital download services, radio stations, and other outlets.

"Part of the problem in Europe is that music rights are sold separately in each country, which has prevented [...] iTunes from setting up a single store to service all of Europe," explains the Associated Press. "Instead, it has to seek licenses from each EU member state where it wishes to sell and to set up separate national stores with different music selections."

This means that Europeans can't currently purchase music tracks from iTunes stores outside their country, and those consumers in countries like Poland and Bulgaria can't access the digital download site at all since iTunes Stores aren't available in their regions.

European Union antitrust regulators pressed the music industry Tuesday to immediately alter their licensing terms, adding that French collecting society SACEM and record label EMI have both agreed to entrust rights managers to offer their catalogs across Europe.

For its part, Apple

">has indicated

that it would be willing to launch a pan-European iTunes Store if it could secure licensing rights that cover distribution across the continent.

"iTunes would agree to consider making its content available to all European consumers, including those from the Eastern European countries where iTunes is currently not available" if Apple is "able to license rights on a multi- territorial basis from the publishers and collecting Societies," the company said.

Last July, the European Commission that oversees competition in the 27-country European Union found 24 collecting agencies to be in violation of the Union's antitrust rules but imposed no fine upon those firms. The Commission now says interested parties have until June 30 to comment on the licensing issue.