Legal Protections for Musicians – Performing Rights

This is the third and final part of a series looking at the protections UK law provides to musicians. Part 1 dealt with copyright and Part 2 dealt with moral rights. This article looks at performing rights.

What are ‘performing rights’?
Performing rights provide artists with rights not dissimilar to copyright. Whilst copyright protects music, lyrics and sound recordings, performing rights provide artists with protection for their performances or recordings of their performances. For example, an artist who performs on stage or during a concert would usually benefit from performing rights.

Performing rights provide the performer with the following protections:

  • the right to control the broadcasting of his or her live performance to the public;
  • the right to prevent the recording of any live performance; and
  • the right to prevent copies of a recording of a performance being made.

These rights are collectively known as a performer’s ‘non-property rights’.

A performer can also prevent the copying of any recording of their performance, and may be entitled to payment for any recorded performance that is subsequently broadcast, publicly performed or rented. These rights are known as the performer’s ‘property rights’.

Can you provide some examples?
An artist’s performing rights may be infringed if any of the following occur:

  • A covers band performs your music in a public venue without obtaining the requisite consents;
  • Your music is played in a business (such as your local hairdresser);
  • Your music is made available on a publicly accessible webiste for download.
A real life example was provided in the Scottish case of PRS v Kwik-Fit Group. In this 2007 case PRS (now PRS for Music) issued a claim against Kwik-Fit for copyright infringement. PRS claimed that Kwik-Fit’s fitters had used radios at Kwik-Fit garages to listen to music for many years. These radios were personal radios, but their music could be heard by other Kwik-Fit employees and customers. PRS claimed that this use infringed performers’ rights in the music played on the radios. PRS also claimed that Kwik-Fit was responsible for this infringement as it was the employer of the various Kwik-Fit fitters! The case settled before coming to court but at a preliminary hearing, the judge said that there was a consistent picture emerging over many years of routine copyright infringement which, if proved, could mean that Kwik-Fit was liable. The terms of the settlement are confidential but, in my opinion, there would have been great pressure on Kwik-Fit to settle this matter out of court – avoiding all the costs usually associated with legal action.

How do I exercise my performing rights?
The simplest way to exercise your performing rights is to join a collection society such as PRS for Music. Membership of PRS for Music costs just £10. By joining PRS for Music you transfer parts of your copyright to PRS for Music. These include your rights to:

  • perform your music in public (at clubs, pubs, shops and concerts, etc.); and
  • communicate your music to the public (via radio, satellite, cable, the Internet, etc.).
PRS for Music then grants licences to individuals and organisations for fees that are specified on the PRS for Music website. Once collected, these monies are distributed to members. Distributions are made in April, July, October and December of each year.
It is possible to manage your own performing rights, but for many artists this will not be a realistic alternative to joining a collecting society. In any event, the collective power of organisations such as PRS for Music is significant. For example, PRS for Music recently issued its first public performance licence in the United Arab Emirates, and continues to press countries to increase efforts to repatriate royalties for performances by UK artists overseas. However, some mainstream artists including U2, Dire Straits and Simply Red have at times expressed their dismay at the level of administration fees charged by PRS for Music. These fees currently amount to 20% (capped at £1,250 per event) for a typical pop concert.

How much could I be paid?
This varies enormously, but for playing at a local pub, the royalty generated will be approximately £6. For rock and pop concerts at mainstream venues, the royalty generated is 3% of box office receipts. So, if you sell 10,000 tickets at £12 the royalty will be 3% of £120,000 = £3,600.

For music played on terrestrial radio stations the royalties range from £16.84 per minute on Radio 1 to 62 pence per minute on Absolute Radio (figures correct as at Dec 2010).

PRS will deduct an administration fee from all royalty payments, full details of which are available here.

Summing up…
Performing rights are extremely valuable. Collecting societies such as PRS for Music provide a cost effective way in which musicians can work together to receive payment for the performance of their works.

Please feel welcome to leave comments and feedback on the above post. I am also happy to answer general copyright questions submitted as comments through this entry. If you would like to discuss any specific requirements then please feel welcome to call me, Mark Roberts, on 0161 826 9309.

Mark Roberts

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