Performing Rights Society

Because it would be economically inefficient to the point of infeasibility for individual owners of music copyrights or recording artists to police every public playing of their work in order to recover a small royalty, almost all are members of performing rights societies who charge license fees to bars, clubs, night-clubs, etc. and monitor radio stations for use of the music of the societies’ members. Radio monitoring is increasingly carried out by computers or other automated means. The performing rights societies then distribute the collected money according to formulae that reflect the level of airplay and usage of members works, usually based on statistical sampling. There is typically at least one performing rights society per major economy/jurisdiction.

Occasionally, the societies split, the most common issue being revenue distribution or arguments that flat fee-based royalties over-reward less popular artists and undercharge for the more popular. The best-known societies are ASCAP (American Society of Composers Authors and Publishers. USA), BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc., USA), Performing Right Society (U.K.), Mechanical Copyright Protection Society (U.K.), SACEM (Sociéte Des Auteurs, Compositeurs et Editeurs de Musique, France), IMRO (Irish Musical Rights Organisation). Similar organizations (often formed as corporations), usually referred to as collecting societies, also exist to recover royalties for professional photography, printed material, artistic works (e.g., the Design and Artists Collecting Society, U.K.), characters (e.g., cartoon characters), broadcast material and TV listings.

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