PRS for Music
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PRS for Music Limited (formerly The MCPS-PRS Alliance Limited) is a UK copyright collection society and performance rights organisation undertaking collective rights management for musical works. PRS for Music was formed in 1997 as the MCPS-PRS Alliance, bringing together two collection societies: the Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society (MCPS) and the Performing Right Society (PRS). The "PRS for Music" brand was adopted in 2009.
The Performing Right Society was founded in 1914 for collecting fees for live performance from sheet music. Initially it was distinct from the activity of the Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society, originally founded in 1911, and renamed in 1924, and Phonographic Performance Limited, founded in 1934 by Decca and EMI, which collected fees for playing gramophone recordings.
The Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society began as MECOLICO, the Mechanical Copyright Licenses Co. in 1911 in anticipation of the Copyright Act of 1911, and merged with the Copyright Protection Society in 1924.
Another agency, the British Copyright Protection Company or Britico was founded in 1932 by Alphonse Tournier, specializing on collecting royalties in the UK on French and German musical copyright, and becoming the British Copyright Protection Association in 1962. This company, Britico, started to share computer facilities with PRS in 1969.
Fields of activity
PRS for Music administers the performance rights and mechanical rights of about ten million musical works on behalf of its songwriter, composer and publisher members. PRS for Music licenses and collects royalties on its members' musical works whenever they are publicly performed, or recordings of them are broadcast or played in public spaces, both in the UK and globally through its partner network.
The principal sources of PRS revenue collection are: music transmitted on television and radio broadcasts, and music performed live at gigs, concerts and theatres.
PRS for Music also has a large range of tariffs for organisations (businesses, government organisations, educational establishments, and so on) dependent on their size and the extent to which they are using music, and whether they are commercial premises or not as well as many other criteria. Around 350,000 UK businesses have paid for a licence from the PRS, but some workplaces do not need one:
- Inpatient and treatment areas in hospitals
- Medical day centres
- Residential homes (in most circumstances)
- Music used in divine worship (although licences are required for copyrighted music)
- Civil wedding ceremonies and partnership ceremonies
- Lone and home workers.
|Business area||2009 (£m)|
|Broadcasting & Online||177.4|
|Public Performance Sales||150.2|
The total licencing and administration costs of PRS for Music (the MCPS-PRS Alliance) are also published in their annual reports as £70.2 million in 2009.
||The neutrality of this article is disputed. (September 2012)|
In 2007, PRS for Music took a Scottish car servicing company to court because the employees were allegedly "listening to the radio at work, allowing the music to be 'heard by colleagues and customers'". In June 2008, PRS for Music accused eleven police stations of failure to obtain permits to play music, and sought an injunction and payments for damages.
Cross-border European licensing
The Santiago Agreement was established in 2000 between five European collecting societies including the UK's PRS for Music and France's SACEM and Germany's GEMA. The agreement allows each collecting society to collect royalties on behalf of members of the other collecting society—e.g. the PRS would collect money for German artists listed with GEMA—but to restrict licences to be sold only within the member organisation's home country.
Along with Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL), PRS for Music use the Centre for Education and Finance Management (CEFM) as agents to collect licensing money from schools and colleges. Universities have separate arrangements.
In 2008, PRS for Music began a concerted drive to make commercial premises pay for annual "performance" licences. In one case it told a 61-year-old mechanic that he would have to pay £150 to play his radio while he worked by himself. It also targeted a bakery that played a radio in a private room at the back of the shop. a woman who used a classical radio to calm her horses and community centres that allowed children to sing carols in public. However, questions have been raised about the tactic of targeting small businesses:
Radio stations pay large amounts of money to licensing organizations PRS and PPL for the music they play, and music has been on the radio for many years. During the war, there were programmes like Music While You Work. Now, many radio stations have features about workplaces. If the PRS forces people to switch their radios off then how are these stations going to survive? Music has to be heard before people go out and buy it.
In March 2009, the on line video-sharing site YouTube removed all premium music videos for UK users, even those supplied by record labels, due to a failure to find "mutually acceptable terms for a new licence" with the PRS. As a consequence, PRS established the Fair Play for Creators campaign in order to provide a forum where musicians could "publicly demonstrate their concern over the way their work is treated by online businesses". David Arnold, Jazzie B, Billy Bragg, Guy Chambers, Robin Gibb, Pete Waterman, Mike Chapman, Wayne Hector, Pam Sheyne and Debbie Wiseman sent a letter to The Times newspaper in support of the campaign launched by PRS. A rights deal was settled in September 2009 between PRS and Google that allowed YouTube users in UK to view music videos.
Wiltshire Constabulary refused to pay PRS for a £32,000 licence fee in April 2009. Instead the force told all officer and civilian staff that music could no longer be played in their workplaces but that ban excluded patrol cars. A total of 38 of 49 UK police forces currently hold PRS licences.
In May 2009, the British Chambers of Commerce published a survey of business attitudes to the PRS. Just 6% of companies rated their experience as good or excellent. In contrast, over half said their experience had been poor or very poor. Businesses were also asked to submit comments about their experiences. Many of these replies referred to the PRS’ behaviour as “aggressive” and “threatening”.
In October 2009, the PRS apologised to a 56-year-old shelf-stacker at a village in Clackmannanshire for pursuing her for singing to herself while stacking shelves. PRS initially told her that she would be prosecuted and fined thousands of pounds if she continued to sing without a "live performance" licence. However PRS subsequently acknowledged its mistake.
In October 2010, it was reported that Sussex Police, in a money-saving move, were not intending to renew their PRS licence, meaning that police officers would no longer be able to listen to the radio in their squad cars or other work places. 
Independent Welsh agency
In 2012, a high percentage of Welsh-language musicians left the PRS to form a separate agency, Eos (Welsh for nightingale), after changes in the way the PRS calculates royalties led to a fifteen-fold decrease in payments. In 2007, the PRS had reclassified Welsh-language station BBC Radio Cymru as a local station, where previously it had been considered a national station. This led to a decrease in royalty rates from £7.50 per minute to 50p per minute of broadcast music. The English-language sister station, BBC Radio Wales, is classified by the PRS as a national station and attracts the higher rates.
As of December 2012, Eos is in negotiations with the BBC, whose Welsh-language service is highly dependent on its members' output. From 1 January 2013, a PRS licence will not be required to play such music, and will not give any permission to do so.
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- "Apology for singing shop worker", BBC News, 21 October 2009, retrieved 21 October 2009
- "Force bans police officers from listening to music to save £23,000", Daily Mail (London), 21 October 2010, retrieved 21 October 2010
- Welsh musicians to launch new agency in PRS royalty row
- Newid breindaliadau i arwain at fethu darlledu miloedd o ganeuon? [Will royalty changes stop thousands of songs being broadcast?] (in Welsh)
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