Republished: A note about the PRS v Youtube Dispute

This article was originally published on in 2009

There has been a bit in the news recently about Google's decision to remove access to Youtube hosted music from UK users. This is as a result of a breakdown of talks between the Performing Rights Society, and Google itself.

In statements, PRS has identified the problem as arising from Google not being willing to pay more than a pittance. Google states that the dispute has arisen because of the vast jump in PRS Fees.

The PRS has now set up a website - Fair play for creators - dedicated to pushing their message of Performers and Composers rights.

Although they are probably heavily moderated and edited, the Supporters Comments Page makes interesting reading. Many have written about Google being a disgrace, and should pay the fees.

I don't believe that any of us are truly aquainted with the full facts, but I can well believe that the PRS charges a hefty fee, especially as some of the terms they apparantly set for a YouTube agreement are somewhat questionable;

YouTube must supply PRS with which videos have been viewed, and how many times on a regular basis. The PRS will then tell YouTube how much they owe.
But, YouTube are not allowed access to any form of Membership list so that they may confirm that they are not being overcharged.

Now the Data Protection Act probably comes into disclosure of the Members list, but an up to date list of all Songs/Compositions made by members of the PRS should not.

The main reason I am writing this article is as a response to some of the comments posted on the Fair Play site. I recognise that people do want to be paid for their work, but get the impression that some of the commentors are under the impression that they are automatically entitled to be.
Inconvenient as it may be, no-one has to buy their music. We can live without it, and the creation of a piece does not automatically lead to it being monetised.

As Google could not reach an agreement with the PRS, they reminded PRS exactly whose money does the talking. They blocked access to the relevant media, thus negating the requirement for a PRS license. The ball is now in the court of the PRS, do they want Google's license fee? Are they willing to negotiate terms?

Songwriters comments may be heartfelt, and may result from a feeling that they have been deprived of money, but in reality Google have reacted in a way that we all do.

If you encounter issues with a company, and they can't be resolved, then you take your money elsewhere. We've all done it, Google is just doing it on a larger scale.

Branding these actions as Despicable or Corporate Bullying is an unnecessarily dense kneejerk reaction. What Google have done is perfectly legal, and most of us would have responded in a similar manner.

There will be those who disagree, but each to their own.