UK Music Collection Society PRS Sues SoundCloud

from the and-so-it-begins dept

There have been rumors for months that various elements of the legacy recording industry were gearing up to sue SoundCloud, the super popular and useful audio hosting site (we use it to host the Techdirt Podcast). In the last year or so, SoundCloud has been ramping up its efforts to appear super responsive to takedown requests, leading to ridiculous situations including the takedowns of public domain material, or of officially uploaded material. The company has also been completely ridiculous about fair use, telling users that it doesn’t recognize it, since it’s only a US concept.

As always, it appears that appeasing copyright extremists never gets you very far in the long run. The rumors for months are that, as with pretty much every other successful internet music-related service, the legacy players come asking for huge chunks of equity if you don’t want to get sued. They basically demand companies bleed themselves dry, or be forced to be bled dry by a lawsuit. And now the lawsuits are starting. First up is not actually a record label, but PRS, the rather infamous UK music collection society that just recently told its members that it was keeping more of the money it collected, in order to funnel it into lawsuits. This is the same PRS that is so desperate to collect more money that it has gone after a woman who played music to her horses, a woman who sang to herself while stocking grocery store shelves and against a charity for daring to have children sing Christmas carols without paying up.

That lovely organization is now suing SoundCloud:

Our aim is always to license services when they use our members? music. It has been a difficult decision to begin legal action against SoundCloud but one we firmly believe is in the best, long-term interests of our membership. This is because it is important we establish the principle that a licence is required when services make available music to users. We have asked SoundCloud numerous times to recognise their responsibilities to take a licence to stop the infringement of our members? copyrights but so far our requests have not been met. Therefore we now have no choice but to pursue the issue through the courts.

PRS itself notes that SoundCloud is arguing that its service in the UK is protected by EU safe harbors as a host of content, rather than the publisher, but PRS isn’t buying it. SoundCloud, in its response, notes that this follows a pattern of the recording industry to sue internet services as a negotiating tactic. As noted over at Music Ally:

?It is regrettable that PRS appears to be following this course of action in the midst of an active commercial negotiation with SoundCloud. We believe this approach does not serve the best interests of any of the parties involved, in particular the members of the PRS, many of whom are active users of our platform and who rely on it to share their work and communicate with their fanbase,? said a spokesperson.

?SoundCloud is a platform by creators, for creators. No one in the world is doing more to enable creators to build and connect with their audience while protecting the rights of creators, including PRS members. We are working hard to create a platform where all creators can be paid for their work, and already have deals in place with thousands of copyright owners, including record labels, publishers and independent artists.?

This is one of those fights where it’s unlikely that there will be any winners, other than the lawyers. SoundCloud will eventually probably just pay up, and continue to make its platform less and less useful. And PRS may get a little bit more money in the short term at the expense of long term support of the platforms musicians need to embrace in this modern internet era.

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Companies: prs, soundcloud

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Comments on “UK Music Collection Society PRS Sues SoundCloud”

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40 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

SoundCloud is a platform by creators, for creators. No one in the world is doing more to enable creators to build and connect with their audience while protecting the rights of creators, including PRS members.

Right there is the problem, they are cutting out the traditional middlemen, including the PRS and preventing them from robbing the creators blind.

ECA (profile) says:

I love their comment

“We have asked SoundCloud numerous times to recognise their responsibilities to take a licence to stop the infringement of our members’ copyrights “

I like the comment..
YOU NEED A LICENSE TO NOT INFRINGE???

This is like the RADIO and music business in the USA…PAY TONS of money in a bar, to have music played..Live or recorded..
Pay MONEY to have PIPED in music into offices and other location…Elevator music…is expensive..

DannyB (profile) says:

Equity?

The rumors for months are that, as with pretty much every other successful internet music-related service, the legacy players come asking for huge chunks of equity if you don’t want to get sued.

So PRS seems to be saying is: “hey our legacy dinosaur business is dying. Wouldn’t it be nice if we owned some flashy new innovative internet companies?”

This really and truly does sound more like mobsters every single day. Pay us ‘protection’ money or give us controlling interest in your business. That protection money is to cover things that SoundCloud is not even doing, but their users are doing and SoundCloud is actively trying to prevent.

Anonymous Coward says:

You mean: "a woman who played" SOMEONE ELSE'S "music to her horses"

— With just that one point set right, the rest of your view is pure dreck.

Whenever other persons are involved, you must take THEIR rights into account, not just grab what they’ve made and use it for your own purposes. Further, in the instances of creative works, the creator has PRIMARY right. That’s the key point that you kids constantly omit because fully believe that you’re entitled to whatever you want without the effort of creating, or at least exchanging value.

And yet like “Dan Bull” you still get outraged when believe an intangible is “yours”. (Dan Bull even after gave it away of his own free will! Sheesh, what a maroon.)

You can still argue that PRS wants too much and actual creators get nothing, but asserting a right to just take creations is not only false and illegal, but total non-starter for any creator (or collection agency). Don’t you see that if “Dan Bull” can claim a work as “his”, then so can other people? Sheesh. What are you, 13-year-old sociopaths? Other people have rights TOO.

Neither Soundcloud nor any person or business has an intrinsic right to gain money from using creations of others. If a “business model” depends on what others make, then it must pay whatever is demanded or forego such use. Und damit punktum.


TWELFTH attempt to comment! Masnick is apparently okaying each comment again. (For some reason, putting that in seems to actually help…)

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re: You mean: "a woman who played" SOMEONE ELSE'S "music to her horses"

Yeah, but copyright rights are sliced and diced a hundred different ways. Performance rights. Mechanical rights. Private home.

Did she have a license for Performance For Horses?

I think not.

And a Performance Rights Society is likely to separately license performances for each end of the horse.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: You mean: "a woman who played" SOMEONE ELSE'S "music to her horses"

What about a goldfish? House plants?

You back the claim that if I legally purchase music for my own use, not only can I not let others hear it, but even my pets must not hear it.

Is that limited to mammals? Do I need to purchase a separate license if I play it out loud in my apartment and my goldfish hears it? Some claim that house plants may respond to music. Do I need a separate license for each plant?

And what of my gut bacteria? Do I need to enumerate how many individual organisms are helping me digest food? Can I purchase a site license to cover all of them?

Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

Sheogorath (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Yea, tar baby. Literate people with even a modicum of education know exactly what I’m referring to.
Not necessarily. I got lucky and had access to the Enid Blyton rewrites, but not everyone has access even to those in my generation because of the increasing amount of works that are out of print, and nobody can google something they’ve never heard of.

Sheogorath (profile) says:

[PRS] has also been completely ridiculous about fair use, telling users that it doesn’t recognize it, since it’s only a US concept.
As ridiculous as that seems on its face, given the fact that the US is not the only country to recognise fair use, PRS does have a point. Germany, where SoundCloud is based, is one of many European countries that don’t contain a broad fair use exception; rather, they provide explicit exceptions for specific uses of copyrighted works. Generally these exceptions are construed strictly, meaning that the publishing platform could be shit out of luck depending upon whether the PRS sues in the UK or in Germany. 🙁

Sheogorath (profile) says:

Re: Correcting my comment

[SoundCloud] has also been completely ridiculous about fair use, telling users that it doesn’t recognize it, since it’s only a US concept.
As ridiculous as that seems on its face, given the fact that the US is not the only country to recognise fair use, SoundCloud does have a point. Germany, where the company is based, is one of many European countries that don’t contain a broad fair use exception; rather, they provide explicit exceptions for specific uses of copyrighted works. Generally these exceptions are construed strictly, meaning that the publishing platform could be shit out of luck depending upon whether the PRS sues in the UK or in Germany. 🙁

Anonymous Coward says:

There has been a push...

…in New Zealand to make APPRA change the way it collects and distributes it’s money in the digital age. Particularly around collection from cafes and bars for recorded music. Say when a cafe pays it’s music licence it provides it’s iTunes play count, so that the artists whose music was played get the money, rather than coldplay. (this does happen already with live performances, so long as shows are logged in their system)
A lot of businesses play local music, sometimes made by friends, and know the money isn’t going to them, and at present there is no mechanism to do that. It would seem to be a simple procedure to pay royalties from soundcloud based on plays, but I suspect it will just go to coldplay again.

That One Guy (profile) says:

"Nice business you got there, be a shame if something were to /happen/ to it..."

“It is regrettable that PRS appears to be following this course of action in the midst of an active commercial negotiation with SoundCloud.

They’re not even pretending not to be running an extortion racket at this point. Suing during negotiations is pretty clearly extortion, using a lawsuit as a negotiation tactic to force the other side to cave in to your demands. ‘Agree to our demands or we’ll drag you to court until you have no choice.’

The Mafia screwed up, forget organized crime, they should have gone into music. Same tactics, but shakedown someone for a ‘license’ ‘just in case someone plays or sings our music’ rather than ‘protection’ ‘just in case a fire breaks out’ and suddenly it’s legal.

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