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Aussie collecting society to licence Universal songs catalogue in multiple Asia-Pacific markets

By | Published on Thursday 4 July 2013


Universal Music Publishing has mandated the Australasian Performing Right Association and its mechanical rights sister body AMCOS to licence its songs catalogue to digital services throughout most of the Asia Pacific region, excluding Japan. It’s a landmark arrangement, because APRA/AMCOS will be the first collecting society to represent a publisher’s catalogue in multiple territories in the Asia Pacific market.

The fact that collecting societies are generally only able to licence the catalogues they represent in their home territories has often been cited as a reason why collective licensing – whereby all (or most) rights owners licence music services together via one blanket licence – is inefficient in the digital space, where most service providers want to operate in multiple countries. Even though, traditionally, collective licensing has been employed where usage is high and per-transaction royalties low, as with most digital services.

So much so, as previously reported, in the digital domain the record labels have mainly opted to do direct deals with digital service providers (unless, as in the US, copyright law forces them to licence simpler services collectively).

Cynics would argue, probably rightly, that’s mainly because they can negotiate bigger royalties and advances directly, where negotiations aren’t subject to the special rules that cover collective dealing. But the labels would likely argue back that it is actually easier for the digital firms to do global deals with the majors, Merlin and a few key distributors, rather than having to negotiate licences with collecting organisations in every single territory.

On the music publishing side, most (though not all) digital services have been licensed through the collective licensing system, though in the US the big publishers are in the process of withdrawing their digital rights from the collecting societies, again believing better deals can be negotiated directly.

Of course the issues around collective licensing always being territory specific can be addressed by allowing collecting societies to licence digital services in multiple territories, most likely – as with Universal and APRA – on a non-exclusive basis. This is has started to happen already in Europe, partly in response to licensee demand, but mainly to satisfy the European Commission, which has long had issues with the monopolies collecting societies enjoy in their home territories.

Confirming it would now allow multi-territory collective licensing of its songs catalogue in Asia Pacific, Universal Music Publishing VP Andrew Jenkins told reporters: “Universal is proud to be the first music publisher to enter into a multi territory licensing and administration arrangement for the Asia Pacific region and I am really excited by the potential of this groundbreaking initiative”.

He continued: “We chose APRA/AMCOS as our trusted partner in this rapidly expanding and incredibly important market because we want our writers to be paid fast, fairly and efficiently for the use of their works. I hope other societies and publishers join us in this initiative to make licensing and administration simpler, faster and more effective for the benefit of songwriters, digital retailers and consumers”.

Meanwhile APRA/AMCOS CEO Brett Cottle added: “Consumers in this part of the world want and need the widest possible access on safe, legal platforms to the world’s repertoire of music. This agreement is an important step in that direction and comes in direct response to pleas from digital service providers”.