updated 7/7/2005 2:00:04 PM ET 2005-07-07T18:00:04

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

EU Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy said European online 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 online."

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, online music sales in Europe have lagged behind those in the United States. Last year, the U.S. had an estimated $248 million in online 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 online 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.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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