PRS For Music takes legal action against SoundCloud

Company responsible for royalties state that SoundCloud have refused to acquire a PRS For Music licence

PRS For Music have confirmed that they are taking legal action against SoundCloud.

An email was sent out to PRS members earlier today (August 27) in which it was explained that “after careful consideration, and following five years of unsuccessful negotiations, we now find ourselves in a situation where we have no alternative but to commence legal proceedings” against the music streaming service.

As explained in the email, PRS’ issue with SoundCloud is the companies continued refusal to acquire a PRS For Music license, which enables them to collect and distribute royalties to the artists and bands who make the music. As a result, PRS-affiliated musicians are not being compensated when their music is streamed on SoundCloud.

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The email describes the decision to mount a legal case against Soundcloud as “difficult” but goes on to explain that they believe it is in the interests of members to take a stand.

PRS For Music launched the Streamfair campaign in June of this year, urging all music streaming companies to acquire a licence. It is hoped that SoundCloud will respond to the legal threat and help avoid further action.

Extracts from the email:

“When a writer or publisher becomes a member of the Performing Right Society, they assign certain rights to their works over for us to administer, so it’s our job to ensure we collect and distribute royalties due to them. SoundCloud actively promotes and shares music. Launched in 2008, the service now has more than 175m unique listeners per month. Unfortunately, the organisation continues to deny it needs a PRS For Music licence for its existing service available in the UK and Europe, meaning it is not remunerating our members when their music is streamed by the SoundCloud platform.

“Our aim is always to license services when they use our members’ music. It has been a difficult decision to begin legal action against SoundCloud but one we firmly believe is in the best, long-term interests of our membership. This is because it is important we establish the principle that a licence is required when services make available music to users. We have asked SoundCloud numerous times to recognise their responsibilities to take a licence to stop the infringement of our members’ copyrights but so far our requests have not been met. Therefore we now have no choice but to pursue the issue through the courts.

“We understand SoundCloud has taken down some of our members’ works from their service. With our letter of claim, we sent SoundCloud a list of 4,500 musical works which are being made available on the service, as a sample of our repertoire being used, so that they understood the scale of our members’ repertoire and its use on the service. We asked them to take a licence to cover the use of all our members’ repertoire or otherwise stop infringing.

“SoundCloud decided to respond to our claim by informing us that it had removed 250 posts. Unfortunately, we have no visibility or clarity on SoundCloud’s approach to removing works, so it is not currently clear why these particular posts have been selected by them given the wider issue of infringement that is occurring. Ultimately, it is SoundCloud’s decision as to whether it starts paying for the ongoing use of our members’ music or stops using these works entirely.

“If the streaming market is to reach its true potential and offer a fair return for our members, organisations such as SoundCloud must pay for their use of our members’ music.”