Is Apple FINALLY Catching a Break in the EU?

The European Union has proposed changes to relax licensing rules that had kept Internet music stores such as Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iTunes from selling digital music across the region. Currently, music copyright licenses are granted on a nation-by-nation basis in the EU, which means that consumers can only download music from one iTunes store.

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EU internal market commissioner Michel Barnier said that current rules give European consumers “less access to innovative services,” resulting in them looking “elsewhere than the legal” online music stores. The commission plans to streamline the methods of agencies that collect royalties on behalf of copyright holders.

According to the proposed rules, these collection agencies can now be asked to transfer their revenue-gathering activities to rivals if they lack the technical capacity to license music to Internet services in multiple countries. The draft rules will also impose stronger oversight on these bodies, which number more than 250 all over the EU, by forcing them to report quickly to musicians on the royalties they have collected.

The draft rules need the support of EU governments and other lawmakers before becoming law.

Appleintroduced its iTunes store in Poland, Hungary, and 10 other European countries last year, seven years after it launched in the U.K., France, and Germany. While it is now available in all 27 member states, it accounted for less than 20 percent of the recording industry’s revenue in 2010, compared to around 50 percent in the United States.

Apple said in 2009 that obtaining licensing rights from publishers and royalty-collecting societies had been a big obstacle to opening iTunes stores in all EU nations.

Shares of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) closed at $604.43 on Wednesday.

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