Harmony is restored between YouTube and PRS

After months of wrangling, the world's top music artists will soon be appearing on YouTube once again.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

For those missing their daily Girls Aloud fix, today brings welcome news: tens of thousands of music videos pulled from YouTube will be reinstated, after a deal was reached between PRS and the Google-owned video sharing site. We Brits have been unable to access these clips for six months, since a licensing deal expired back in December – but there’s now a new agreement, backdated to January 2009 and set to run until 2012. And by this time it’s quite possible that the landscape will look very different; many people think we’ll need to find an alternative to the already-creaking music licensing model. The Government is continuing its crack-down on file-sharers, but we’re not convinced this is the answer…

The issue of music rights is rather a thorny one, as we’ve discussed before. YouTube did have a deal with PRS, but this deal ran out in December last year – sparking six months of squabbling between the two. PRS started off by playing hardball: it offered the website a choice between paying 0.22p per song played or 8% of its UK music turnover. The terms of this new agreement haven’t been disclosed yet, but rumours suggest that YouTube has moved away from the pay-per-view model, agreeing to pay the PRS a lump sum for the total three-year period instead.

But it’s unlikely that this is the last we’ll hear on the subject. The Guardian today claimed to have seen a statement penned by a coalition of bodies – representing a range of artists, from Sir Paul McCartney to Damon Albarn – expressing their distaste at business secretary Lord Mandelson’s plans to cut off the broadband connections of internet users who illegally download music. You’d have thought that it would be the stars who would oppose the illegal sharing of their music, given that it limits their income from royalties – but apparently not. The coalition has accused the Government of being backward-looking, and says it needs to find a new way of licensing music technologies, rather than fighting or banning them.

Both the YouTube deal and the musicians’ opposition to plans to prosecute file-sharers are indicative of a fundamental power shift taking place within the music industry. A solution does need to be found, and fast – but cutting off the internet supply to the UK’s 7m file-sharers a year is not necessarily the answer. A recent Norwegian study found that far from being expense-evading cheapskates, file-sharers are generally big music fans, who are ten times more likely to buy music. However, until a new way of monetising their proclivities is found, the record industry is likely to keep chasing after file-sharers...


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