YouTube video removal irks music publishers

Rights dispute could affect MySpace in the U.K.

LONDON -- The U.K.'s Music Publishers Assn. has voiced its concern at Google's decision to remove music videos from YouTube over a rates row with collecting society PRS for Music, while there are reports the dispute could affect the MySpace Music service in the U.K.

Premium music videos -- official content often supplied by labels -- have started to be removed from YouTube for U.K. users, according to PRS for Music.

Meanwhile, there are reports that a similar dispute over the PRS for Music licensing rates could affect MySpace in the U.K., which is negotiating rates ahead of a planned launch of the MySpace Music service offering full album streams in the U.K.

"We are in active discussions with them (MySpace)," said Andrew Shaw, managing director of broadcast and online at PRS for Music. MySpace U.K. declined comment.

In a statement, the MPA said it was "dismayed" at Google's move after negotiations stalled.

"This action is particularly disappointing in light of the landmark deal agreed between PRS for Music (then the MCPS-PRS Alliance) and YouTube in August 2007," said the statement. "That deal, brokered with the assistance of the MPA representing the U.K.'s music publishers, was a pragmatic licensing solution, enabling YouTube to provide copyright content whilst providing the songwriters and publishers a fair return for their creativity and investment."

The statement urged Google to reconsider and to make the content available.

"Music publishers are in the business of getting their music heard by as wide an audience as possible, and Web sites such as YouTube rely on this music to attract traffic," MPA chief executive Stephen Navin said. "It is difficult to see how anyone's interests are served by denying to the YouTube community the content they most enjoy."

PRS for Music says its negotiating position is in line with the 2007 U.K. Copyright Tribunal ruling on digital streaming rates. The increased popularity of online services for music videos and tracks has had a knock-on effect on the rates being demanded, with Google stating that the costs are "simply prohibitive" for YouTube.

A PRS for Music statement said: "Google has told us they are taking this step because they wish to pay significantly less than at present to the writers of the music on which their service relies, despite the massive increase in YouTube viewing."

Jez Bell, executive director of broadcast online licensing, has a scheduled meeting with Google in London on Tuesday.

Negotiations on rates broke down, which prompted Google to announce late yesterday that it was taking down premium music videos. PRS for Music collects for around 60,000 members.

Rival music video services have stepped into the row, with Dublin-based Muzu.tv's managing director Mark French criticizing YouTube for not being able to pay the PRS for Music rate.

"Muzu.tv was purpose built for the music industry with a viable model that protects the CPM by its 100% focus on premium music content," he said in a statement. "While the industry needs to look at the minimum stream rates to make new business models viable and sustainable it should not let YouTube hold it to ransom."
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