The nightmarishly intertwining world of music licensing is a popular topic here, especially considering the past outlandish actions of various performance rights agencies. On top of this, there's the multitude of different
licenses, each one applying specifically
to certain formats or outlets. If it's streaming on Youtube, it needs x license and y license. If it's streaming at Spotify, it needs x license and z
license. If it's a radio station simulcast at the station's website, license x, y and
z are needed, along with license aa
. And so on.
Podcasters in the UK are running into licensing problems when attempting to clear music for their broadcasts, as PPL
(who covers performance rights for recorded music, like SoundExchange in the US) is causing problems. PPL has a history
of questionable over enforcement, and they just can't let up, apparently. Phil Satterly sends in this rather sad story of a long-running Progressive Rock podcast (DRRP Radio) that is going "off the air" thanks to PPL's thoroughly impossible demands
Launched 18 months ago, we've produced 83 shows that have been downloaded over 30,000 times. We've covered bands from every type of prog. We've done special features on independent labels and festivals plus interviews with the likes of Clive Nolan, Steven Wilson, Gazpacho, Steve Hogarth, Riverside, Sean Filkins, Mystery and Godsticks. We have regular listeners from as far away as New Zealand, Singapore, Canada, Cuba and The Shetland Isles!
Unfortunately three weeks ago our service provider stopped enabling downloads of the shows. The move followed pressure from the PPL – the organisation in the UK which provides broadcast licences for the recording copyright holder (i.e. record companies).
PPL is doing what collective rights organizations do best: shut down as many artistic outlets as possible. The organization is looking for a payout, but can't even be bothered to let people pay them, as Andy Read (one of the podcast hosts) points out.
Music licensing is a complex issue and it took quite some find to find a way to legally do DPRP Radio in the first place. We have a broadcast licence, we have a streaming licence and we have a podcast licence for the PRS – the body representing the songwriters. We do not have a podcast licence for the PPL who are now threatening legal action against podcast providers. We would happily buy a podcast licence from them… but they do not offer one!
DRRP isn't the only podcast being asked to do the impossible by PPL. The UK Folk Music podcast host quotes the PPL website's wording
on the broadcast licensing it does
As a broadcaster you would have to obtain permission from potentially thousands of record companies before being able to play the recorded music – a PPL licence gives you this permission and allows you to play virtually all recorded music readily available in the UK simply, quickly and legally. PPL then passes these licence fees, less our running costs, onto the performers and rights holders, similar to royalties.
Handy, I guess, except that PPL does not offer a license specifically
for podcasting. Podcasters need a very limited license if using PPL's music because the podcasts are able to be downloaded and stored. This distinguishes them (and moves them into another area of copyright protection) from radio broadcasts or other streaming services whose offerings are transient. (Not that these can't
be "trapped/downloaded." Anyone remember cassette tapes? Yeah, same thing. Only with software.)
PPL's lack of a podcasting license punts the ball back to podcasters and other music bloggers. If they can't get a blanket license, they'll have to do it the hard way: "obtain permission from potentially thousands of record companies before being able to play the recorded music
Obviously, this is an impossibility. And for those of you saying clever stuff like "just use original music by artists not represented by this agency?" Well, you obviously haven't been paying attention. Rights groups like PPL and PRS will still try to collect from you. In their minds, no one
plays music anywhere
(not even in their hardware store
/ hotel room
) without playing a bunch of their stuff. It's a self-serving distortion of reality.
And for those hoping the artists that split from PPL to form their own rights group (EOS) will result in a brighter, smoother future for all concerned? You can pretty much kiss that rosy picture goodbye. EOS has already attempted to shutter a few radio stations
. The end result is another venue for artist exposure being shut down by the "white knights" of the artistic community. These agencies don't really
care about the artists on their roster. They just want to find a way to insert themselves, hands out, between the artists and their supporters.