IMRO’s licensing methods has been a hot topic recently due to its demand that Irish music bloggers pay licence fees to play music on their sites. While non-profit bloggers are understandably disappointed to learn that they may have to pay €150-€300 annually to host music, even if the musicians have provided them with the music, such a licensing scheme does not threaten to destroy the native music scene, as some have suggested.
Workarounds are possible and Nialler9, along with many comments, have pointed to the possibility of simply linking to the relevant songs if they are hosted elsewhere. One such possible host is YouTube, which reached a licence agreement with IMRO/MCPSI this year. Little detail of that licensing deal is available on IMRO’s website and no information appears to be available on YouTube’s website. So I began to wonder: does the IMRO/YouTube licence cover synchronisation rights?
Copyright can be carved up a number of ways and a copyright owner can licence or assign different parts or uses of their works. For example, on joining IMRO, a musician assigns his/her performing rights to IMRO. This means that IMRO collects royalties for that right on behalf of the musician and the musician no longer has any performing rights in the music covered by IMRO. Therefore, if an IMRO member sets up a blog and streams his/her own music on that blog, (s)he will still need an IMRO licence to do so.
Synchronisation rights are the part of copyright that cover the use of work in conjunction with other media. A common example is advertising: when you use a backing track in a television ad, you need a synchronisation right licence because you are synchronising the music with film footage. In everyday language people might refer to seeking permission or clearance to use the music – what is being sought is a synchronisation licence.
If you made an ad for a once-off broadcast at an event, such as on big screens at a music festival, you (or the festival organisers) would need:
- a synchronisation right licence to make the ad;
- an IMRO/MCPSI licence; and
- a PPI licence.
MCPSI (effectively a limb of IMRO) can provide synchronisation licences for some music but this must be checked on a song-by-song basis and some songs must be licensed directly from the musician. Generally, the more successful the artist, the more likely a licence is required directly from them (and the more expensive that licence will be).
It would appear that the IMRO/YouTube deal covers the playing of music on YouTube in the same way a music festival might get an IMRO licence. That does not mean, to take my example above, that the synchronisation of music in an ad is necessarily covered. Some music on YouTube is uploaded by the record company or artist responsible along with the music video that accompanies it and therefore no new synchronisation occurs. However, a huge amount of YouTube videos involve new synchronisation: whether involving the use of music as a backing track to a home movie or where a user has created their own music video to accompany a song.
I asked IMRO if these uses are covered by the licence agreed with YouTube and a definitive answer was not available. However, it appears that:
- The IMRO/YouTube deal allows the use of music with third-party video if the musician has assigned their synchronisation rights to MCPSI or a foreign equivalent which has a co-operation agreement in place with MCPSI.
- If the musician has retained their synchronisation rights, individual permission must be sought where music is to be used in conjunction with third-party video.
- This means that, despite the IMRO/YouTube licence, certain musicians might still be able to have videos taken down or the sound removed from them.
If this summary of the position is correct, full rights clearance of a video uploaded to YouTube requires a song-by-song check with MCPSI to see if that song is covered by the IMRO/YouTube deal.