BIEM is the international organisation representing mechanical rights societies. Mechanical rights societies exist in most countries. They license the reproduction of songs (including musical, literary and dramatic works). Their members are composers, authors and publishers and their clients are record companies and other users of recorded music. They also license mechanical aspects of the downloading of music via the Internet.
Every time a CD, audio cassette or LP containing protected musical works is made, the producers require a license from the owner of the works and they must pay royalties for each copy they manufacture and sell.
The mechanical rights societies issue the licenses and collect the royalties which they distribute to the owners of each work.
The term "mechanical right" dates back to the time when all reproductions were carried out by a mechanical process. Even though nowadays reproductions are carried out in a variety of electronic and digital ways, the term "mechanicals" has become enshrined into industry jargon.
BIEM is based in Neuilly-sur-Seine (France) and represents 57 societies, from 61 countries.
Members of BIEM enter into agreements to allow each of them to represent the others' repertoire. In this way, a BIEM society is able to license users for the vast majority of protected works in the world.
BIEM negotiates a standard agreement with representatives of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) fixing the conditions for the use of the repertoire of the societies. The standard agreement is applied by the member societies to the extent that there is no compulsory licence or statutory licence in their territory. BIEM's role is also to assist in technical collaboration between its member societies and to help in solving problems that arise between individual members.
BIEM represents and defends the interests of its member societies, particularly in forums relating to authors' rights such as WIPO, UNESCO, TRIPS (http://www.wto.org) and the WCO (http://www.wcoipr.org).
BIEM also collaborates with the international non-governmental organisations, which pursue the same objectives as its own. These include, in particular, CISAC (International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers) and GESAC (European Grouping of Societies of Authors and Composers).
BIEM was formed in 1929. Originally it exercised the licensing function on behalf of its European members but in 1968 those responsibilities reverted to the individual societies.
The office of the General Secretariat is at 20-26 Boulevard du Parc, Neuilly-sur-Seine, 92200 France. The telephone number is (33) (1) 55 62 08 40. The fax number is (33) (1) 55 62 08 41 and the email address is info[at]biem.org. The Governing Body of BIEM is the Management Committee which reports to the General Assembly.