Apple will extend the iTunes Store into many more European countries in the coming year, following a critical meeting with European competition commission regulators.

Following yesterday’s meeting, European authorities released a joint statement in collaboration with Apple, music rights bodies and smaller online music operators detailing a series of agreed principles that should make online music sales in Europe more consumer friendly.

Apple and others agreed to the statement during a round table meeting in Europe yesterday, the fourth meeting of the Roundtable on the Online Distribution of Music, chaired by European Commissioner for Competition Neelie Kroes.

Amazon, BEUC, EMI, Nokia, PRS for Music, SACEM, STIM and Universal also took part.

Apple immediately announced that it was encouraged by progress towards more efficient online music licensing and that it is "optimistic" in making the iTunes store available to consumers in more European countries in the coming year.

Commissioner Kroes stated: "European consumers want and deserve better online music offerings. Today’s agreement by the Roundtable on core principles represents real progress in this direction. It is the first time that players from various parts of the market have agreed on a common roadmap. I also welcome the concrete steps and commitments that have been made and which should improve the availability of online music for consumers."

In a key move which should open iTunes up for business in many more European countries, roundtable participants committed to pursuing new EU licensing platforms comprising the repertoires of collecting societies from more than one country. These platforms should consolidate the widest possible repertoire in their catalogues and should be based on voluntary cooperation among right owners.

They also agreed to work toward providing multi-territorial licences and set up a working group to create a common framework for the identification and exchange of rights ownership information. This will make it easier for commercial users to identify the relevant right owners and secure the necessary rights.

EMI announced that it expects to take an important step forward in digital licensing in Europe via forthcoming non-exclusive deals with the Spanish (SGAE) and French (SACEM) collecting societies.

SACEM will now actively cooperate with as many European authors’ societies as possible with a view to building a common, non-exclusive  portal able to offer the largest possible repertoire to online services on a pan-European basis.

The joint statement as agreed yesterday is available to view here.

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