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Performance Rights Organizations Accused Of 'Retitling' Songs To Collect Royalties Without Paying Artists

from the sad-state-of-affairs dept

In various discussions about the music industry, we're often told that the so-called Performance Rights Organizations (PROs) are "looking out for artists' interests." In practice, that's not always the case. In the US, for example, we've talked about how PROs have harmed up and coming musicians by jacking up prices so high that many venues that used to be the starting place for new musicians no longer allow any music. Similarly, there are plenty of stories showing how they often collect money that should go to smaller artists, but deliver it to big name artists instead, because it's too difficult to track how much they should be paying smaller artists.

A press release from an organization called Music Licensing Directory -- which may be biased, so take this with a grain of salt -- is highlighting that 40% of the PROs it tracks engage in "retitling" tracks for the purpose of licensing. Basically, the accusation is that the PROs change the title, so that they still collect the royalties, but since the songs can't be easily connected back to the original artist, that artist doesn't get paid.
“We have analyzed over 1500 music licensing companies globally, allowing for an accurate assessment of the market place and providing valued insight for artists and the industry.” said Winston Giles, CEO & Founder of The Music Licensing Directory.

The new report highlights that whilst the Music Licensing Industry continues to grow as a multi-billion dollar segment of the global music industry, there remains some unhealthy practices, most notably the prolific practice of retitling. Retitling is where a music licensing company re-registers a song under a different title with a performing rights organization (PRO), allowing for the royalties to be separately tracked when that song is licensed for a specific third party use. This allows the music licensing company to control and earn a significant share of the royalties collected.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Prashanth (profile), Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 5:23am

    Patent evergreening

    This essentially sounds like patent evergreening, except it is done to copyrighted works (rather than patented works) and is done more shamelessly.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 5:29am

    "...which may be biased, so take this with a grain of salt..."

    Noted. Assuming 80%.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 5:33am

    While the argument could be made for copyright, I haven't seen any good news when it came to organisations like these. But what do you expect from people who consider ringtones as public performances?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 5:38am

    funny how ALL politicians manage to ignore these practices by members of the entertainment industries, along with plenty of cases where the labels and studios just DO NOT PAY the artists concerned but jump up to defend those same execs and condemn the people who download stuff or format shift what they legally own! typical of the 'you scratch my back, i'll scratch yours' attitudes between Congress and their many friends in the industries. if they were to look at the amount of money owed to artists by the labels and studios, it would dwarf the so-called losses suffered from file sharing. trouble with that is it takes guts and scruples, which 99.9% of politicians just dont have!!

     

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  5.  
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    PaulT (profile), Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 5:41am

    If true, this only cements what most people who care should already know - these things have nothing to do with protecting artists, only to screw over the people who still pay legally for content. It's pure profiteering from the works of others, the very thing that people in the industry claim to be fighting against.

    It is worth noting that the directory is a paid-for service that seems to be providing access to numerous PRO databases, so they could have an ulterior motive for making it seem that people need to be checking that their information is correct. The "full report" linked also seems to be an infographic giving its own site and Wikipedia as 2 of 4 sources, which is suspicious.

    However, we're really back to the same position. If true, it's a scandal, it's fraud and it should be dealt with to the limits of the law - especially by those showboaters who jump on the "but piracy!" train every time it comes up. If untrue, it shouldn't take the usual defends too long to work out why it's so easily believed (hint: many previous incidents of similar behaviour).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Andy, Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 5:41am

    Wrong culprit

    Hey Mike,
    The PRO's are not at fault here (for once!). It's the Music Licensing Companies. They change the song titles to avoid having to pay the songwriter fees, or to collect the publisher fees themselves. So you can't really blame the PRO's for not being able to track usage of songs in this particular case.
    Can't believe I'm defending the PRO's here! haha!

    Cheers

    Andy

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    PaulT (profile), Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 5:42am

    Re:

    Hmmm, funny how you pick that figure!

    (from the linked article:

    “There are suggestions from within the industry from companies like Tunesat, who claim that up to 80% of songs are not reported properly."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 5:55am

    And then they'll turn around and claim to be defenders of artists' rights...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 5:59am

    Re: Re:

    Yeah, but they probably reached those conclusions via methods that involved geeky stuff like "Math".

    My process - which scientific publications refer to as "Making stuff up" - is much more efficient and nearly* as accurate.



    (By the way, is there such a thing as an "Accidentally Insightful" award?)





    * For some generous interpretations of "near"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Sean, Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 6:12am

    Legal Ponzi Scheme

    Taking money that should be going to smaller artists and giving it to the big name artists kinda sounds like a legal ponzi scheme to me.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 6:15am

    Re: Wrong culprit

    " It's the Music Licensing Companies. They change the song titles to avoid having to pay the songwriter fees, or to collect the publisher fees themselves."

    Can you PROVE the title change was done by the Music Licensing Companies, NOT the Performance Rights Organizations, Andy?
    Eagerly awaiting a reply...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 6:22am

    Re: Wrong culprit

    It is the entire licensing system of laws that is at fault here when it allows this activity in the first place.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 6:49am

    Well that's not surprising. Too bad they seemingly don't get int trouble for it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    dennis deems (profile), Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 7:05am

    Re: Re: Wrong culprit

    Why does Andy have to prove anything? It's right there in the paragraphs that Mike has quoted:
    The new report highlights that whilst the Music Licensing Industry continues to grow as a multi-billion dollar segment of the global music industry, there remains some unhealthy practices, most notably the prolific practice of retitling. Retitling is where a music licensing company re-registers a song under a different title with a performing rights organization (PRO), allowing for the royalties to be separately tracked when that song is licensed for a specific third party use. This allows the music licensing company to control and earn a significant share of the royalties collected.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 7:07am

    Re: Re: Wrong culprit

    Can Mike prove that there was even one single artist who didn't get the money that was due them because of the title change? Or is this article just 100% bullshit?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 7:32am

    Re: Re: Re: Wrong culprit

    It's not Techdirt's job to prove these things. It's Techdirt's job to report what others have found.

    If you want proof, why not ask the Music Licensing Directory, the party making the claim, instead of blaming Techdirt?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 7:32am

    Re: Re: Re: Wrong culprit

    Well, it proves criminal malfeasance under US copyright law, as set in Sections 106 and 107.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 7:33am

    Re: Re: Wrong culprit

    He might not be able to prove it, but it is what the agency reporting it says is happening.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 7:33am

    Re: Re: Re: Wrong culprit

    Why else would they change the title Joe?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Andy, Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 7:49am

    Re: Re: Wrong culprit

    I can prove that at least one Music Licensing Company I have worked with uses this method, yes.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 7:51am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Wrong culprit

    The source article states that the titles are changed so they can keep track of particular usages. Sounds not-so-evil to me. The source article only states that this might lead to confusion such that the royalties don't make it where they're going, but it doesn't actually state that this has ever happened. Sounds like a bunch of idiotic anti-copyright FUD to me.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 8:01am

    So who the hell is "Music Licensing Directory"?

    It's so questionable that even Headlong Mike has to mumble and heavily hedge: "from an organization ... -- which may be biased, so take this with a grain of salt".

    Meanwhile, you pirates think nothing of ripping music and entire $100M dollar movies onto sites where it's guaranteed that the artists won't get paid.



    Take a loopy tour of Techdirt.com! You always end up same place!
    http://techdirt.com/
    Where arrogance meets ignorance to conspire what they'll do with someone else's 100 million dollar movie.
    04:01:17[f- 2-8]

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 8:01am

    Re: Patent evergreening

    THIS... sounds like stealing to me.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    anonymouse, Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 8:16am

    Re: So who the hell is "Music Licensing Directory"?

    As said very clearly in this comment thread, some like you will surface like scum from the bottom of the pond to cry foul and accuse the pirates of taking what is not theirs.

    It is shown time and time again that with Hollywood accounting those that are stealing are those actually accusing the pirates. Pirates share they do not steal anything and you need to accept this or be ignored in many conversations.

    If anything the copyright maximalists are the ones stealing from the artists and those that have invested in their creations by means of the famous Hollywood accounting. They are just using piracy as a means to accuse others of their misdeeds to move the conversation away from their theft and greed.

    And if you do not understand what Hollywood accounting is there is enough info on Google for you to investigate, but one very clear example is the fact that some of the biggest grossing movies of all time are still said to not be creating and never have created a penny in profit. Now you explain to me how a movie like the first star wars movie has not made a profit over it's lifetime, and has not paid a penny out in royalties.

    Come on i am waiting for your knowledgeable excuses as to why a movie that is one of the all time top grossing movies is still declared as non profitable to those that seek their royalties from any profit.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
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    PaulT (profile), Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 8:17am

    Re: So who the hell is "Music Licensing Directory"?

    I love it, an attack on Mike for potentially using a biased source - follow by an outright lie. Why do you have to lie so much ootb? Is reality that hard to deal with? Did you not get your crappy $100 million movie script approved?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    PaulT (profile), Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 8:19am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Wrong culprit

    It's funny how you regularly come here and criticise Mike of offering his opinion (one his OPINION blog, wow!), but you expect us to take your own moronic interpretations at face value.

    Sounds like a bunch of shit to me, but that tends to be the trend for people who regularly attack this site but lack the cojones to even create a fake name to log in with. What are YOU hiding?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 8:48am

    Re: Re: So who the hell is "Music Licensing Directory"?

    I suspect he was only paid $$99.99 million, and when he threw a diva tantrum he had his privileges revoked. Now he ekes out a living trolling sites like Techdirt.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 9:26am

    Re: Re: Re: Wrong culprit

    Can you prove that there was even one single artist who starved due to piracy? Or is the standard of proof not for you and the RIAA?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 9:40am

    Re: Re: Patent evergreening

    No, it's not stealing when the companies do it, only when people do it. /s

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 9:44am

    Re: Re: Re: Patent evergreening

    So corporations are persons, but not people?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 9:57am

    Re: So who the hell is "Music Licensing Directory"?

    Am I a thief even though I showed you proof that I paid for things? Why won't you answer me! I just want a yes or no question! Stop running away!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 10:41am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Patent evergreening

    These days they seem to be more people than actual people.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
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    DanZee (profile), Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 1:57pm

    Royalties

    The recording industry has always played fast and loose with royalties collection. In the old days, it simply estimated the number of plays to compute the copyright royalties, which meant indie artists received nothing since they weren't being included in the surveys. Then recently it was revealed that US PROs couldn't be bothered computing anything but the largest concerts, therefore giving big artists royalties that should have gone to small artists. The entire system is against the hard working artist.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
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    special-interesting (profile), Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 3:58pm

    The comments said most of what I would have. Corruption, theft, scandal, non tin foil hat conspiracy, real loss to artists and most notably loss to culture. There have been some lawsuits against PRO's and other sales sites but mostly from well off bands that can afford the litigation expense.

    Have been expounding on the clear observation that RIAA and MPAA have business models almost indistinguishable from organized crime. Can add Performance Rights Organizations (PRO) and Music Licensing Companies (MLC) to that list? Not a surprise since they possibly aspire to be like their big daddy **AA's.

    This is great stuff! Where there is money we will find corruption. Follow the trail! (and toss the stupid rational that its just a mistake or that we just misunderstand)

    What we need are more victims willing to prosecute. Keep gathering evidence. Donate to the EFF to remedy expected expenses. Its likely that only through subpoenas and warrants will sufficient data for prosecution to occur as these types seem like habitual lairs.

    Reactionary,

    Andy. Would there be any connection between the MLO and PRO's? Collusion might bring up RICO charges which are much stronger (even if the RICO law itself is weird) in terms of penalties and possible prison terms for the involved.

    Anonymouse. In Hollywood accounting one takes money from one pile and allocates it to some expense not necessarily involved with the original production. (its all in the contract fine print) The First Star Wars movie is a good example where the production of the second movie ate up the proceeds from the first (along with some large capital investments in the LucusFilm empire notably computer graphics and special effects.)

    Of course this partial explanation does not make it any easier on the actors and others stiffed of proceeds from a very profitable film.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 4:02pm

    NOOO A cartel spin off hiding money to line their own pockets?!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2013 @ 2:12am

    Copyright has always been the means whereby businesses lined their own pockets while pretending that they were supporting the creators. Obviously a small amount of money goes to creators, to maintain the fiction that copyright benefits them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Zachary, Apr 25th, 2013 @ 10:55am

    Response to: Anonymous Coward on Apr 24th, 2013 @ 2:12am

    Or in the case of ASCAP, distributing over 85%. Don't mislead just because you don't earn

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    jay, Oct 5th, 2013 @ 4:22am

    Response to: PaulT on Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 5:41am

    who do u work 4 spy...and defuser of justice and the pursuit of prosperity...u suck worste then a pornstar with one lip

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
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    PaulT (profile), Oct 7th, 2013 @ 4:42am

    Re: Response to: PaulT on Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 5:41am

    You waited 6 months to act like an illiterate paranoid idiot? I hope you're not the jay who regularly posts here, he usually seems coherent as well as sane.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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