Business News Labels & Publishers

ASCAP adds percentage share info to its songs database

By | Published on Wednesday 11 November 2015


US performing rights organisation ASCAP has announced the addition of percentage share information to its publicly available songs database.

It means that when people search for a specific work in the society’s ACE Database, among the other information already provided it will now also indicate what percentage of a song ASCAP controls when it comes to the exploitation of performing rights in the US.

Songs, of course, are often co-written and therefore co-owned by different publishers. This means that, if a third party wants to make use of a co-written work, they must do separate deals with each publisher.

Though, when it comes to the performing rights, a single licence is normally available from the local collecting society, which will represent all of the songwriters and publishers linked to a song, either directly or via reciprocal agreements with other collective management organisations.

Except in the US, where – although similar blanket licensing occurs for performing rights – there are four different societies representing songwriters and publishers, so the biggies ASCAP and BMI, and the smaller ones SESAC and GMR. Which means that a licence from just one society may not be sufficient to exploit any one song, depending on which societies its co-writers are affiliated to.

As previously reported, as part of the current review of collective licensing rules in the US, it has been proposed that any one collecting society should be able to completely license a song in which it has a stake – even if it’s only a tiny stake – providing it passes on a share of the royalties to other societies or stakeholders pro-rata.

In theory that is already possible under US copyright law outside the collective licensing system – so, with sync for example – though in reality part-owners of a song would often refuse to do a 100% licensing deal without first consulting with the other writers and/or publishers that control a stake. And either way, publishers aren’t keen for the 100% licensing system to be applied to the collecting societies.

One reason for forcing 100% licensing on the societies, though, is the argument that it is hard for licensees to know which PROs they need to have licenses from in order to make use of any one song. With the addition of percentage share information to its publicly accessible database, ASCAP aims to make it clearer whether its blanket license covers each song in its repertoire in its entirety, or just partially.

Announcing the addition of this extra information to the ACE Database system, ASCAP chief Elizabeth Matthews told reporters: “Songwriters and composers depend upon ASCAP to support themselves and their families. If public performance rights societies are going to survive and thrive in a global music economy driven by data, then we must be willing to be fully transparent regarding what shares of songs we are licensing. ASCAP is willing to lead the fight for greater transparency in this sector to support fair market value payments to our songwriter and publisher members and we urge other stakeholders to follow suit”.