The chief of one of America’s publishing industry collecting societies, BMI’s Del Bryant, has issued a letter responding to the news that Universal’s publishing business is planning on following the lead of Sony/ATV/EMI in pulling its song rights out of the collective licensing system in the digital domain.
This will mean that some, or possibly all, digital music services in the US will have to do deals directly with the major publishers to licence the rights that exist in their songs, rather than securing those rights via deals with the country’s three societies, BMI, ASCAP and SESAC.
In the main to date the publishing sector has chosen to licence most digital services through its collecting societies, whereas labels have chosen to licence directly. The consensus is that bigger rights owners can get better deals if they licence direct, partly because of their size, and partly because it removes any statutory limitations put on the collective licensing system in some countries.
The Universal and Sony publishing firms moving to direct licensing for digital shows a big shift in the way that sector thinks about digital, which could spill over into other markets.
Bryant explains what Universal and Sony’s recent decisions mean in his letter, and reveals that BMI has entered into an agreement with Sony/ATV/EMI to still administrate the collection and distribution of royalties from those digital platforms the major licences direct – but subject to the royalty rates agreed directly – a first for the society.
Putting a positive spin on developments, while stressing the role the collecting societies still have in the digital space, Bryant says: “While certainly complex, we see these recent developments as a clear marketplace signal of the enhanced value music brings to the digital world and beyond. We are working diligently to make that value a reality not just for large multinational music companies, but for ALL songwriters, ALL composers and ALL music publishers”.
He adds: “While recent developments may have added complexity to an already complex rights landscape, we see opportunity. We see an opportunity to level the digital playing field and to allow the courts to consider all precedents across the digital spectrum. We see an opportunity to value performances of musical works fairly when compared to performances of sound recordings. We see opportunities for BMI to provide additional administrative services and add value to the markets we serve. All the while we remain dedicated to serving our constituents: songwriters, composers, music publishers and our licensees”.
You can read the full letter on Billboard here.
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