NEW YORK (Hypebot) – YouTube has pulled thousands of music videos off its UK web site in a dispute over rates and reporting with British collection society PRS. The take down could take several days, but gone will be videos from all four majors (WMG's were pulled several weeks ago in an unrelated dispute) and most indies.
In a statement, PRS cried foul. "Google has told us they are taking this step because they wish to pay significantly less than at present to the writers of the music on which their service relies, despite the massive increase in YouTube viewing. This action has been taken without any consultation with PRS for Music and in the middle of negotiations between the two parties."
But Google paints a very different picture. "PRS is now asking us to pay many, many times more for our license than before…we would lose significant amounts of money with every playback. In addition, PRS is unwilling to tell us what songs are included in the license they can provide so that we can identify those works…that’s like asking a consumer to buy an unmarked CD without knowing what musicians are on it." Negotiations are said to be continuing to resolve the dispute.
Hypebot Commentary :
The UK vs. YouTube & The New Music Industry: By suddenly taking down music videos in the UK, Google's YouTube proved that it could walk away from the table. Music videos, particularly those just in the UK, are something that the mighty Google can live without. Anyone who has ever been involved in high stakes negotiations has probably reached a similar moment. To move the ball forward you need to prove – or at least appear to prove – that you can walk away if necessary.
UK licensing body PRS For Music has cried foul; and they have every right to. But in the end, who needs whom more? Google's YouTube wants UK eyeballs, but not if it can't make money. In the end, PRS clients will want the income YouTube brings, even if smaller per play than before. If the dispute is not resolved quickly, some labels, as with Merlin and MySpace, will just bypass the PRS and get their content back up.
Who is the villain? Many in the press want to skewer Google for unilaterally disrupting their video fun, but they forget that it was the PRS that forced Pandora out of the UK as well.
"It's the UK music industry that is the biggest loser."
Who suffers? The fan, as usual, who just lost a major source of music discovery and found another reason to be angry at the music industry.
But it's the UK music industry that is the biggest looser. From online royalties to ISP interference, the birthplace of The Beatles and Sex Pistols seems determined to send the message that it has no intention of being an incubator for new music tech and the new music industry itself. – Bruce Houghton