Companies that want to sell music online in the European Union can now get a single license to operate in all 25 member states, the European Commission said on Wednesday.
"These licences will make it easier for new European-based online services to take off," Internal Market and Services Commissioner Charlie McCreevy said in a statement.
Starting an online music service in Europe such as Apple's iTunes currently requires the consent of dozens of license holders in each country -- record labels, royalty collection societies, music publishers, and, in some cases, from the artists themselves.
The resulting lengthy negotiations pushed back the launch of services such as iTunes and Napster by months, and some popular U.S. music services such as Yahoo have yet to appear in Europe in part because of licensing red tape.
The Commission said in its guidelines to the industry on Wednesday that societies collecting royalty income on behalf of authors of music should henceforth have the right to operate across the EU, scrapping any territorial restrictions.
"I will be monitoring the situation closely and, if I am not satisfied that sufficient progress is being made, I will take tougher action," McCreevy said.
The Commission hopes this will end a situation whereby royalties owed to authors are not always distributed to them because of national barriers.