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Choir performance on website & YouTube

Posted: Mon Aug 31, 2015 7:32 pm
by RacingHippo
Hi folks,

I am a member of an amateur chamber choir in London.
We perform works that are both within copyright and out of copyright (by several hundred years in some cases!).

For our performances themselves, the right to perform copyrighted pieces is inherent in the purchase of the music (as is usually the case).

But I'm having great difficulty finding out how we stand vis-a-vis putting recordings (made by a choir member or friend) of our performances (or parts thereof) onto our website.
Some have suggested that we'd need a PRS Limited Online License, but surely that would only apply if we were making money from the recordings?

And what about YouTube? I've seen plenty of recordings of recent compositions on there; have they chased down the copyright owner and obtained permission? Did they need to?

Any advice greatly appreciated!


Posted: Tue Sep 01, 2015 6:16 am
by AndyJ
Hi RacingHippo,
Owners of copyright have the right to decide several things about what may be done with the works they have created. One of these is known as the performing right, which authorises the performance of the work in public. In this context a public performance is one to which the public (as opposed to family or close friends) have access, whether for free or after having paid for a ticket etc.

The Performing Rights Society (PRS) is the primary body responsible for administering this right on behalf of composers and songwriters. Technically it does this in behalf of its members, ie composers etc who have joined PRS, but in practice a licence from PRS will usually indemnify a performer against a claim of infringement from a non-member, who would instead need to claim their royalties from PRS. However as you mentioned, since a music publisher is usually the rights holder of the performing rights for sheet music, when they sell the sheet music, a licence to perform the musical work is included in the fee.

There is a separate right concerned with recording the performance, known as the mechanical right, for which separate permission (in the form of a licence) is required. In the UK administration of this right is handled by the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society of Great Britain (MCPS), which conveniently now operates in conjunction with PRS as PRSforMusic, meaning that joint licensing is available. Generally speaking the music publisher will not have licensed the mechanical right when they sold the sheet music (and indeed may not be authorised to do so).

Thus before your choir may make a recording of a performance of a copyright work a mechanical licence is required. In practice if the recording was for purely private purposes then a licence would not be necessary, but it would be if the recording is to be made available to the public. It doesn't matter whether this making available is done for profit or not. That said PRSforMusic does offer licences specifically intended for charities, churches etc, and so if you think this might apply to your choir, try contacting PRSforMusic for a blanket licence. Alternatively if your repertoire is mainly or exclusively religious you might be better contacting Christian Copyright Licensing International CCLI. If you mainly deal with one music publisher, it might be worth contacting them to ask about mechanical rights as this could be cheaper than the PRSforMusic blanket licence.

It is important to note that all members of the choir have the right to agree or not to the recording. This is known as the performance right (not to be confused with the performing right) and if you did decide to sell copies of the recording or to raise revenue from adverts associated with your Youtube presence, then the performers are entitled to an equitable share of the proceeds. The performance also becomes a copyright work once it has been recorded (ie fixed in a permanent form) and the owner of that copyright is the producer of the recording. This copyright lasts for 70 years from the date the recording is made. In view of all this, it is worth drawing up an agreement to ensure that everyone's interests (performers, the producer, and the choir's conductor or administrator) are understood from the outset. This can prevent disputes arising later. At the same time it is worth considering how you might want to deal with other possible future uses of the recording, such as so-called sync rights and grand rights. I won't cover these in detail here but you can read up on them on Wikipedia if you need to.

Posted: Thu Sep 10, 2015 2:08 pm
by RacingHippo
Thanks, AndyJ for a very comprehensive reply!
I have contacted PRSfor music to enquire about which particular license would best suit our needs. No response yet....

Posted: Tue Sep 22, 2015 1:28 pm
by RacingHippo
I got a response from PRSforMusic...

"For your own website you will require the Limited Online Music Licence (LOML) is designed to cover small online services for offering music or general entertainment content to the UK public. For more information about the LOML and to apply please visit the link below: ... /LOML.aspx

Youtube and Soundcloud should hold a licence as they are hosting the content and communicating to the public and we always licence the ‘last link in the chain’ to consumer.
However they may require you to have prior approval from the publisher."

So we'd need a LOML if we host the recordings ourselves... BUT we might be able to get away without one if we were to host videos only on YouTube and audio on Soundcloud.

I'm familiar with the way that YouTube works (with their auto-content-matching that told me a piece by William Byrd (died 1623) was within copyright! It did correctly spot an Eric Whitacre piece, and I agreed to allow him to advertise on it) but will need to look into SoundCloud. Or just put a still image on audio, put it on YouTube, and see if anyone wants to claim it!

Posted: Wed Sep 23, 2015 12:53 pm
by AndyJ
Thanks for the update, Hippo.