YouTube kicks videos from artists under the PRS contract out of its UK channel, stating that:

The costs are simply prohibitive for us – under PRS’s proposed terms we would lose significant amounts of money with every playback. In addition, PRS is unwilling to tell us what songs are included in the license they can provide so that we can identify those works on YouTube — that’s like asking a consumer to buy an unmarked CD without knowing what musicians are on it.

What I think we have here is an interesting conflict: remember that the PRS does not hold the copyright on anything, because:

The visual elements and the sound recording of a music video are typically owned by a record label, while the music and lyrics of the song being performed are owned separately by one or more music publishers. These publishers often designate organisations called collecting societies to issue licences and collect royalties on their behalf.

So the PRS is really selling a service to publishers, collecting money on their behalf. This is a classic “content” vs. “audience” conflict reminiscent of the many “product” vs. “distribution” ones, with the difference that this audince can be fed content coming from a myriad other sources, so it looks a little unbalanced: if YouTube is such a popular channel with GenY consumers (the primary market for music videos) the real question is whether the parties could not come to a direct agreement that cuts out the middleman; worse still, individual or indie-label artists could exploit this “gap” left by mainstream artists to promote their own work.

Nobody would have dreamed of strong-arming people like the PRS as little as 5 years ago !


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