Monday, March 09, 2009

PRS kills goose, torches farm, ploughs salt into land

Well, thank you, PRS: An unrealistically high demand for royalties on videos shown on YouTube in the UK means that music videos are about to vanish from British PCs:

YouTube said today that after the expiry of its former deal, PRS had proposed new payment terms that would be financially prohibitive for the site and would require YouTube to pay out more than it makes from the ads next each video.

It also said that PRS would not agree to identify which artists and songs are covered by which licence, something essential for YouTube's content ID system to identify and reimburse rights holders for each song that is viewed.

"We value the creativity of musicians and song writers and have worked hard with rights-holders to generate significant online revenue for them and to respect copyright," said Google in a statement.

"But PRS is now asking us to pay many, many times more for our license than before. The costs are simply prohibitive for us - under PRS's proposed terms we would lose significant amounts of money with every playback."

This is further indication that the PRS might be the wrong people for the job of ensuring digital royalties get to artists. It seems they're incapable of understanding the value of music in the new age. In the same way that they seem to think it's going to be worth the while of small garages to pay hefty licence fees on the offchance customers might hear music leaking from the service bay, PRS is incapable of grasping the value of individual songs to Google. Hence, nobody gets anything.

For their part, the PRS is acting outraged:
PRS said in a statement that it is "outraged on behalf of consumers and songwriters that Google has chosen to close down access to music videos on YouTube in the UK".

But since when has the PRS ever given a flying hoof about consumers' interests? Because, fair enough, they're not there to represent them. They should be representing the interests of songwriters, though, and it's hard to see how anyone's interests are served by this move.

The PRS claims, by the way, that Google are fibbing:
PRS insists that Google has made this move because it wants to reduce the amount it pays in royalties, despite an increase in viewer numbers.

Does the PRS realise that all it's managed to do is shore up whatever unlicensed system picks up the business from disaffected YouTube viewers?


5 comments:

emsquared said...

Great title which sums up the situation nicely. The PRS licensing specifics do sound , at best vague if indeed Google's take can be believed. Even if Google is just flexing its muscles to get reduced rates the PRS probably needed this kind of wake up call anyway. At the moment it does sound like a very bloody self inflicted wound for legal licensing arrangements.

El Aguila said...

Are you owned by Fox, too?
This is lousy reporting - doesn't it sound to you like google offered less money then they pay at present; PRS asked for more than they receive at present; google pulled the vids? Where do you get the modern day morality play from? Too many pop videos addled your brains?

simon h b said...

Ah... yes, El, because 'having an opinion' is the same as being 'owned by Rupert Murdoch'.

You might notice that I did mention PRS' position, but since it doesn't actually sound like you read the post, you probably didn't.

The PRS has a history of demanding ridiculous sums of money and, as I said, overestimating how much music is actually worth to people.

The morality play? Well, try this: an unelected, self-appointed body claims to speak for all songwriters in the UK; as a result of their botched attempts to squeeze money out of a service that can't afford it, not only are all songwriters losing money but artists have lost access to the largest promotional tool on the internet.

This has nothing to do with royalty rates, and everything to do with the PRS trying to seem like they're a vital force in the digital world to 'protect' songwriters' interests. They're not. They're not even very good at it.

El Aguila said...

Hello simon,
I'm sure PRS aren't perfect - but they do seem to reach agreements about licences with everybody else. And I bet everyone always complains that they are paying too much, as well. But it doesn't sound like PRS have demanded the videos be taken down while they negotiate this licence. It sounds like a Google bargaining chip.
Are you sure they're unelected, by the way? I live in Spain and the board of the collecting society for songwriters here does stand for election by members.

simon h b said...

An organisation which elects its members is still self-appointed and unelected - there's no mechanism by which PRS can be derecognised.

Yes, it's a bargaining chip on Google's behalf. The PRS reach agreement with other people because there's no other body you can appeal to - if a radio station wants to play music, it's got no choice but to come to a deal with PRS. YouTube is in the happy position where it doesn't need to bow to PRS' demands.

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