Performance rights organisation
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (July 2010)|
A performance rights organization (PRO) provides intermediary functions, particularly collection of royalties, between copyright holders and parties who wish to use copyrighted works publicly in locations such as shopping and dining venues. Legal consumer purchase of works, such as buying CDs from a music store, confer private performance rights. PROs usually only collect royalties when use of a work is incidental to an organization's purpose. Royalties for works essential to an organization's purpose, such as theaters and radio, are usually negotiated directly with the rights holder.
In some countries PROs are called copyright collectives or copyright collecting agencies. A copyright collective is more general than a PRO as it is not limited to performances and includes reproduction rights organizations (RROs). RROs represent works distributed via mediums such as CD, audiocassette, or computer file rather than use of works in public settings.
The first performing rights society was established in France in 1851. In the United Kingdom, the Copyright Act 1842 was the first to protect musical compositions with the Performing Right Society, founded in 1914 encompassing live performances. The rights for recorded or broadcast performance are administered by the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society, founded in 1924. Italy introduced a performing rights society in 1882 and Germany in 1915. In the United States, The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) was founded in 1914; Society of European Stage Authors & Composers (SESAC) in 1930 and Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) in 1939. Sociedad Puertorriqueña de Autores y Compositores de Musica (SPACEM) was founded in San Juan Puertorrico in 1953. SPACEM name was changed to ACEMLA, or Asociacion de Compositoes y Editores de Musica and remains today PRO No. 76 in the Cisacs roster of performing rights society.
Other than their primary purpose as an intermediary between rights holders and customers, PROs are highly active in legal arenas. PROs take alleged rights violators to court, or in the U.S., to the Copyright Royalty Board, of the Library of Congress. PROs lobby on behalf of rights holders, especially in discussions of legal royalty rates.
As a side benefit of tracking public performance of works for royalty collection, PROs publish statistics of publicly performed works.
The licensing services provided by a PRO arguably provide advantage to customers, who can simultaneously license all works the PRO represents.
PROs have been criticized for charging non-profit organizations for their use of copyrighted music in situations where the non-profit organization was not earning money from the use. ASCAP, for example, was eventually forced in the face of public opinion to abandon its attempts to charge the Girl Scouts of the USA for singing campfire songs. ASCAP's and SESAC's policy of charging non-commercial educational (NCE) radio stations for playing copyrighted music has also been criticised, especially by college radio stations across the U.S., which rely entirely on student and listener support for funding and have difficulty affording the extra fees.
PROs are often criticized for stretching the definition of "public performance." Until relatively recently in the U.S., playing copyrighted music in restaurants did not involve legal issues if the media was legally purchased. PROs now demand royalties for such use.
By discouraging performances in limited public arenas, again using the restaurant example, critics say PROs eliminate the free publicity such performances provide for a work thereby depressing media sales. Incidentally, lower media sales conflicts with RROs but disputes between the two parties are not known to occur since each type of organization represents the interests of the same parties, rights holders, and are forced to work in common interest.
Rights owners - especially independents and newcomers not represented by large publishing companies - criticize the PROs for what they deem to be "mystical" formulas for deciding who gets what share of the total licensing revenue received.
Rights holders criticize PROs for slow or non-existent payments and excessive membership dues or service fees.
North America 
United States 
- SOCAN (Canada)
- CMRRA (Canada) - http://www.cmrra.ca
- SODRAC - http://www.sodrac.com
- SPACQ (Québec) - http://www.spacq.qc.ca/
Saint Lucia 
Most countries (that observe copyright) have the equivalent:
- Choquette, Frederic, "The Returned Value of PROs", Music Business Journal, Berklee College of Music, May 2011
- Schulenberg, Richard, Legal aspects of the music industry: an insider's view, Random House Digital, Inc., 1999. Cf. Chapter 13, "Performance, Performing, and Neighboring Rights".