Friday, April 03, 2009

Telling fibs to members: The PRS rallies support

Thanks to Ian for forwarding on the letter the PRS is currently sending out to try and raise interest in its FairPlayForCreators initiative. It's quite an interesting read:

Fair Play for Creators has been established by PRS for Music so that its songwriter and composer members, along with other creators, can publicly demonstrate their concern over the way their work is treated by online businesses.

This is just a stylistic point, but wouldn't hope that a company which is part of the creative industries might be able to express itself in a slightly less ungainly fashion?
Fair Play for Creators is an online forum set up after Internet-giant Google made the decision to remove some music content from YouTube in the UK.

Is it? Obviously, "forum" is a slippery term, but wouldn't you expect a forum to be a place where you might be able to debate? What FPfC actually is is a space supporting the campaign, and contributions seem to be chosen only if they support the line.

And strictly speaking, YouTube in Europe, Middle East and Africa made the decision, didn't it?
Google made this decision because it didn’t want to pay the going rate for music, to the creators of that music, when it is used on YouTube.

Did it? Isn't the argument not about if YouTube wants to pay "the going rate", but what that going rate actually is? In the words of Churchill, they know what you are, they're just haggling about price.

But then "we think songs are worth more than Google does" isn't quite as hard done-by, is it?
Google continue to say they cannot operate YouTube if they have to pay a royalty – however small – every time a video containing music is played. In 2007, the UK’s independent Copyright Tribunal established that a minimum royalty per play was an essential requirement in the licensing of online services.

Have they? Or is this just a recognition that a single play would generate such a tiny figure, until you reach a certain number of plays it's facile to make payments. Seriously: how would the PRS even distribute an income in hundredths of a penny?
Google fails to recognise this and ascribes little value to music - in spite of a huge increase in music usage on YouTube’s UK service in the past year alone.

Why, PRS? Why do you embarrass yourself by writing this sort of thing?

You know it's not that Google "ascribes little value to music" - it just disagrees with you about where the price point is. Why must you treat your members - whose earnings pay for your jobs - as if they're idiots and talk to them in fairy stories?

And do you really not understand that simply because there's a "high increase" in music usage on YouTube "in the past year alone" doesn't actually mean that the company is making any more money? Are you so ignorant of the workings of the internet that you don't grasp that a "high increase" in usage of a web hosting service brings with it a "high increase" in costs, too - more bandwidth, more storage, more electricity to power the servers - and that an increase in demand doesn't automatically equate to an increase in income, much less profit.
We are pleased to report that there has been a good deal of media coverage about the Fair Play For Creators campaign including an article in The Times today. High profile supporters have also published a letter in The Times newspaper, to further raise awareness of the issues.

That's The Times newspaper. They haven't inserted an article into Ed Ball.
We are also delighted that many music industry organisations are also supporting the campaign. The Musician’s Union and the Featured Artists’ Coalition are the latest to throw their weight behind us, joining BASCA, the MPA, PCAM and UK Music.

A surprising number of organisations with pretty much the same activists and world view agree with each other.
As we write this, we have also just learnt that Google has begun similar action in Germany; blocking user access to premium content on the German YouTube service because it won’t pay the going rate for music to our colleagues at the German collecting society, GEMA.

Actually, YouTube is removing the music because the agreement with GEMA has expired, and so they no longer have an agreement to legally display the German organisation's member's music. Is the PRS suggesting that Google should have carried on playing out the videos despite having no legal agreement to do so?
Please add your support to the campaign by leaving a comment at

And if you don't agree with the PRS' bungled approach to the YouTube negotiations, which are costing artists real money because as a corporation they can't adjust to the new realities? What then, PRS?
Here you can also read more about the latest developments, read industry statements, link to media coverage and read the latest supporter comments.

Do help us highlight this issue by forwarding this email to fellow music creators or others who may wish to pledge their support.

We look forward to hearing from you.

It's funny, isn't it? The PRS makes much of being a member's organisation, and a democratic body - but never once does it think that there might be members who disagree with its direction. There's not a hint of asking "are we getting it right?"; not a sniff of any attempt to treat the renegotiation of the YouTube deal as part of a debate. To an outsider, it looks like PRS views its members as footsoldiers who - fed a bit of sub-Henry V calls to arms, smuttered up with a bit of inaccurate spin.
Fair Play for Creators – One voice together, we can be heard.


Anonymous said...

Yet again they've not come out with anything that even comes remotely close to proving their point. Unfortunately like so many before them, their self declared authority get listened to. Where they should be trying to prove to people like us that they can make large sums of filthy lucre from their online ventures they just point fingers at how somebody else isn't doing it for them. Like I said the other day on your article about GEMA, what exactly is stopping them from proving us wrong? Why aren't they going out and putting up their own YouTube system? Hell, even Google would advertise that site! Why? Sadly, the truth. I suspect they know. I'm not more than ever desperate for Google to take a stand here and point this out to the millions of people who use their site, the very consumers that these people want to reach and a hell of a lot than will ever join some self appointed "fair play" committee of people nodding their heads in agreement, loudly proclaiming, in the words of another Churchill, "Oh yes."

anon again said...

*that was supposed to say "now more than ever" and not "not". Typos do tend to happen when you're in a hurry to crack that final joke about Churchill

simon h b said...

Your 'why don't they do it themselves' is spot on: rather than building a website which invites members to regurgitate PRS talking points, why not make FairPlayForCreators into a site that shares music?

(Besides the obvious one of the advertising revenue they'd raise not even paying the hosting costs much less a return to members. Besides that one...)

I was going to try and end on a Compare The Meerkat punchline, but I think I've let you all down.

Anonymous said...

Simon - is your quote formatting slightly off at the end of the post?

simon h b said...

Yes. Fixed now. Sorry.

Olive said...

Your 'why don't they do it themselves' is spot on:

Funny you should say that; I posted a comment to that effect on their, ahem, forum, but it wasn't published.

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