The European Parliament called on Monday for binding rules to regulate the bloc's online music market and protect less powerful artists, but the proposal was rejected by the bloc's executive.

It was the latest spat in the European Union's tortuous efforts to get agreement in the hotly contested field of intellectual property rights. In October 2005, the EU's Executive Commission published nonbinding guidelines allowing artists to choose which collective rights management society (CRMs) they want handle their online music copyright across Europe.

Under the current system, CRMs have national monopolies with a complex web of bilateral agreements with each other. The commission hopes its "soft law" approach will help spur cross-border competition in the sector, and make it possible for users such as Apple Inc.'s iTunes online store and radio stations to have a one-stop shop for obtaining a pan-EU license. People who want to trade music online across the 27-nation bloc would no longer have to negotiate with each state.

The EU assembly was debating a nonbinding report, due to be adopted on Tuesday, examining the commission's recommendation. Lawmakers were angry that the executive bypassed them by opting for soft law rather a regulation that would need approval from parliament and EU states. "I am not happy with the softer approach taken by the commission in regulating this area, which is of growing economic importance," said the report's author, Hungarian socialist lawmaker Katalin Levai.

The report generally backs choice of CRMs to artists and enables online music or mobile services to have a one-stop shop for a pan-EU license. But using "soft law" could stifle local music markets and dilute cultural diversity, the report said, urging caution in how competition was introduced into the sector. There should be no pressure to lower the level of royalties and a license fee should be based on the tariff in the country where the music is consumed, the report said.

The commission signaled it would not propose binding rules. "The commission would like to say that the online sector is developing apace so we have to proceed with caution ... we must not respond in an inflexible manner," EU Employment Commissioner Vladimir Spidla told parliament. "Existing arrangements have to be improved in such a way that rights holders are afforded adequate protection. I think there is a willingness to accept these proposals," Spidla said.

Source: Yahoo! News