1709 Blog: for all the copyright community

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

DMX: call for action over unauthorised music licences

A little bird with impeccable credentials, known to him only as Lofty Larynx, has told the 1709 Blog about some momentous developments within the field of music licence revenue.  The information received by your blogger reads as follows:
"Get moving!
Composers' and songwriters' future income is at stake and you should INSIST that PRS for Music acts against the US publishers who have issued and been paid for music licences when they had NO RIGHT TO DO SO.

Email PRS for Music’s CEO, insisting that action be taken to protect your revenues and stop this unlawful licensing practice.

Write to BASCA (the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors), asking them to take this issue to the PRS and insist on action to protect your revenues.

What Happened? 
A large US music service, DMX, has been granted licences by certain US publishers in exchange for licence fees paid direct to those publishers and not to the US societies. The effect has been to reduce the value of the US performing right for DMX to approximately 30% of what it was when the catalogues were licensed by the US societies. One major publisher (soon to be even bigger) was paid a seven figure sum by DMX for these rights. 
Crucially, the US publishers in question do not own the performing right in your work if you are a direct writer member of PRS. You, the writer, have assigned the performing right exclusively to PRS for Music. DMX is using your music without a licence from the rightowner – your society, PRS for Music.

Why does this matter? 
1. The value of the performing right has been reduced to 30% of the value of a society licence. 
2. The US publishers do not own the performing right in any songs or compositions written by direct members of PRS for Music – you granted that right exclusively to PRS for Music. 
3. It is unlikely you will ever see your share of these licence fees. 
4. DMX is a large US music service, part of Mood Media. DMX and Mood supply 580,000 commercial locations in over 40 countries performing PRS songwriters’ music (without a licence) to 100 million people every day (Mood Media’s own figures). 
5. DMX has no right to play the music of The Beatles, The Stones, U2, Pink Floyd, Coldplay, Amy Winehouse, Adele, Guy Chambers, Elton John, The Shadows, INXS etc etc ... you get the picture. But then we should leave DMX to sue those US publishers for selling them a pig in a poke. 
How was this done? 

Unlike most of the rest of the Western world, US writers and publishers grant their performing right to their society non-exclusively. This means that US music users can go direct to US publishers. 
DMX already had licences from the US societies but wanted to cut costs. They went to publishers and paid lump sums for direct licences and then terminated their society licences. Interestingly many US publishers did not renew once they saw their revenue had been eroded. The deals remain in place for other US publishers, especially those who took large upfront fees.
ASCAP and BMI sued and lost – they had a very inexperienced judge at first instance. Publisher representation on society boards makes it unlikely they will act without real pressure from the writers.

What can you do about it? 
UK writers: If you are a direct writer member of PRS for Music (or indeed APRA in Australia, IMRO in Ireland, SOCAN in Canada or any of the European Continental societies) you should write to your society, asking them what they propose to do about US publishers issuing licences for rights they do not own! The PRS Board is 50% publishers, so they need to be pressured by you to act in the best interests of the writers who are the life blood of music. 
US writers: Every US songwriter that is a direct writer member of ASCAP, BMI or SESAC (or their managers) should be looking at their publisher statements to see where their DMX performance revenue is itemised. If it is not there, ask your publisher if they signed one of these DMX deals. If they did, ask them to show you on your statement where you have been paid for the public performance of your work by DMX.

Useful email addresses 
PRS CEO Robert Ashcroft Robert.ashcroft@prsformusic.com
BASCA Chair Sarah Rogers sarah@tutti.co.uk
Also, as MEPs are debating European Collecting societies this month (September), your own MEPs --- and Francois Arbault (EU Commission Cabinet Member with Responsibility for IP),
francois.arbault@ec.europa.eu 
Text of the Judgment here

DMX Announcement: here".
This blogger has no prior knowledge of this and would appreciate any further information from readers, as well as from DMX, Mood Media, publishers, composers and responsible organisations.

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