Performance rights organisation

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A performance rights organisation (PRO), also known as a performing rights society, provides intermediary functions, particularly collection of royalties, between copyright holders and parties who wish to use copyrighted works publicly in locations such as shopping and dining venues. Legal consumer purchase of works, such as buying CDs from a music store, confer private performance rights. PROs usually only collect royalties when use of a work is incidental to an organisation's purpose. Royalties for works essential to an organisation's purpose, such as theaters and radio, are usually negotiated directly with the rights holder.


In some countries PROs are called copyright collectives or copyright collecting agencies. A copyright collective is more general than a PRO as it is not limited to performances and includes reproduction rights organisations (RROs). RROs represent works distributed via mediums such as CD, audiocassette, or computer file rather than use of works in public settings.


The first performing rights society was established in France in 1851. In the United Kingdom, the Copyright Act 1842 was the first to protect musical compositions with the Performing Right Society, founded in 1914 encompassing live performances. The rights for recorded or broadcast performance are administered by the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society, founded in 1924. Italy introduced a performing rights society in 1882 and Germany in 1915. In the United States, The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) was founded in 1914; Society of European Stage Authors & Composers (SESAC) in 1930 and Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) in 1939. Sociedad Puertorriqueña de Autores y Compositores de Musica (SPACEM) was founded in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1953. SPACEM's name was changed to ACEMLA, or Asociacion de Compositoes y Editores de Musica and remains today PRO No. 76 in the CISAC's [1] roster of performing rights societies.


Other than their primary purpose as an intermediary between rights holders and customers, PROs are highly active in legal arenas. PROs take alleged rights violators to court, or in the U.S., to the Copyright Royalty Board, of the Library of Congress. PROs lobby on behalf of rights holders, especially in discussions of legal royalty rates.

As a side benefit of tracking public performance of works for royalty collection, PROs publish statistics of publicly performed works.

The licensing services provided by a PRO arguably provide advantage to customers, who can simultaneously license all works the PRO represents.


PROs have been criticised for charging non-profit organisations for their use of copyrighted music in situations where the non-profit organisation was not earning money from the use. ASCAP, for example, was eventually forced in the face of public opinion to abandon its attempts to charge the Girl Scouts of the USA for singing campfire songs. ASCAP's and SESAC's policy of charging non-commercial educational (NCE) radio stations for playing copyrighted music has also been criticised, especially by college radio stations across the U.S., which rely entirely on student and listener support for funding and have difficulty affording the extra fees. Community Orchestras, which mostly play classical works in the public domain, may occasionally play a work within copyright, but are forced to pay licenses to rights societies on all concert revenues including concerts where all music is in the public domain, which is then distributed to songwriters of pop songs.

PROs are often criticised for stretching the definition of "public performance." Until relatively recently[ when? ] in the U.S., playing copyrighted music in restaurants did not involve legal issues if the media was legally purchased. [ citation needed ] PROs now demand royalties for such use.

"One exception to the rule allows businesses of a certain size (stores under 2,000 square feet, restaurants or bars under 3,750 square feet) to play music from a radio, television, or similar household device without a license, provided there are fewer than six speakers (with limits on the placement of speakers), and customers aren't charged to listen. Other exceptions include educational and charitable functions... If your business falls into one of the categories listed above (size of business, number and placement of speakers, etc.) radio/TV] you may want to check out section 110(5) of the Copyright Act. As you likely won't need a license. But, before making a decision, check with a lawyer." [2]

By discouraging performances in limited public arenas, again using the restaurant example, critics [ who? ] say PROs eliminate the free publicity such performances provide for a work thereby depressing media sales. Incidentally, lower media sales conflict with PROs, but disputes between the two parties are not known to occur since each type of organisation represents the interests of the same parties - rights owners - and are forced to work in common interest.

Rights owners – especially independents and newcomers not represented by large publishing companies – criticise the PROs for what they deem to be "mystical" formulas for deciding who gets what share of the total licensing revenue received. They also criticise PROs for slow or non-existent payments and excessive membership dues or service fees.[ citation needed ]



North America

United States



Most countries (that observe copyright) have the equivalent:

Argentina SADAIC
Australia Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA)
Australia Phonographic Performance Company of Australia (PPCA)
Austria Autoren, Komponisten und Musikverleger (AKM)
Belgium SABAM
Bolivia Servicio Nacional de Propiedad Intellectual (SENAPI)
Brazil ECAD (Escritório Central de Arrecadação e Distribuição)
Canada Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN), Re:Sound Music Licensing Company
Chile Sociedad Chilena del Derecho de Autor (SCD)
Croatia HDS
Czech Republic OSA
Denmark KODA
Estonia EAU
Finland Teosto
France Société des auteurs, compositeurs et éditeurs de musique (SACEM)
Georgia SAS
Germany Gesellschaft für musikalische Aufführungs- und mechanische Vervielfältigungsrechte (GEMA)
Greece AEPI
Hong Kong CASH
India The Indian Performing Right Society Ltd
Ireland Irish Music Rights Organisation, Phonographic Performance Ireland (PPI)
Israel ACUM
Italy SIAE
Lithuania LATGA-A
Malaysia MACP
Mexico SACM
Nepal Music Royalty Collection Society Nepal (MRCSN)
Netherlands BUMA
New Zealand APRA
Norway TONO
Panama SPAC
Philippines FILSCAP
Poland ZAIKS
Puerto Rico ACEMLA
Romania UCMR
Russia RAO
Serbia SOKOJ
Singapore Composers and Authors Society of Singapore Ltd (COMPASS)
Slovakia SOZA
South Africa Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO)
South Korea KOMCA, KOSCAP [5]
Spain SGAE
Sweden STIM
Switzerland SUISA
Taiwan MUST
Thailand MCT
Trinidad and Tobago COTT
Ukraine UACRR
United Kingdom PRS, PPL
United States of America ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, ACEMLA (SPACEM), AllTrack, Global Music Rights (GMR)
Uruguay AGADU
Venezuela SACVEN

State regulation and income taxes

Although the Copyright Clause of the United States Constitution delegates the power to establish Copyright law in the United States, in recent years, a number of States have enacted transparency laws in respect to Performing Rights Societies. These generally force Performing Rights Societies to discloses the musical works they license. Because many establishments pay blanket license fees to Performing Rights Societies but have little or no idea if the fees they pay actually secure the rights to perform musical works. This can result in unfair business practices called tolling. Many performing rights societies send representatives into businesses who attempt to disrupt or shut down a concert, claiming an insufficient or performing right license, and some states have banned this practice.

Moreover, states with income taxes hope to withhold royalty income for "performances" inside those states rather than in the state where a composer/songwriter lives or the Performing Rights Society is located. In practice, state income tax accounting is very difficult to regulate. Notable is Colorado's law, which requires each Performing Rights Society to disclose its entire catalog.

Related Research Articles

American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers American not-for-profit performance-rights organization

The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) is an American not-for-profit performance-rights organization (PRO) that protects its members' musical copyrights by monitoring public performances of their music, whether via a broadcast or live performance and compensating them accordingly.

Broadcast Music, Inc. Performing rights organization in the United States

Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) is a performing rights organization in the United States. It collects license fees from businesses that use music on behalf of songwriters, composers, and music publishers and distributes them as royalties to those members whose works have been performed. In FY 2019, BMI collected $1.28 billion in revenues and distributed $1.196 billion in royalties. BMI's repertoire includes over 1.1 million songwriters and 17 million compositions. BMI is the biggest performing rights organization in the United States and is one of the largest such organizations in the world.

Copyrights can either be licensed or assigned by the owner of the copyright. A copyright collective is a non-governmental body created by copyright law or private agreement which licenses copyrighted works on behalf of the authors and engages in collective rights management. Copyright societies track all the events and venues where copyrighted works are used and ensure that the copyright holders listed with the society are remunerated for such usage. The copyright society publishes its own tariff scheme on its websites and collects a nominal administrative fee on every transaction.

A royalty is a payment made by one party to another that owns a particular asset, for the right to ongoing use of that asset. Royalties are typically agreed upon as a percentage of gross or net revenues derived from the use of an asset or a fixed price per unit sold of an item of such, but there are also other modes and metrics of compensation. A royalty interest is the right to collect a stream of future royalty payments.

As with any other idea, the idea for a performing arts production is copyrighted as soon as it is created. In order for any of these works to be performed, the proper licenses must be obtained. The only exception to this rule is with the case of works already in the public domain. This includes, for example, the works of William Shakespeare. Whether a work is in the public domain or not depends on the date it was created. If the work is not in the public domain, a license must be obtained to perform it. In many cases, the license for a Broadway production is called an option.

A compulsory license provides that the owner of a patent or copyright licenses the use of their rights against payment either set by law or determined through some form of adjudication or arbitration. In essence, under a compulsory license, an individual or company seeking to use another's intellectual property can do so without seeking the rights holder's consent, and pays the rights holder a set fee for the license. This is an exception to the general rule under intellectual property laws that the intellectual property owner enjoys exclusive rights that it may license – or decline to license – to others.

APRA AMCOS consists of Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) and Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (AMCOS), both copyright management organisations or copyright collectives which jointly represent over 100,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers in Australia and New Zealand. The two organisations work together to license public performances and administer performance, communication and reproduction rights on behalf of their members, who are creators of musical works, aiming to ensure fair payments to members and to defend their rights under the Australian Copyright Act (1968).

Music on hold (MOH) is the business practice of playing recorded music to fill the silence that would be heard by telephone callers who have been placed on hold. It is especially common in situations involving customer service.

Music licensing is the licensed use of copyrighted music. Music licensing is intended to ensure that the owners of copyrights on musical works are compensated for certain uses of their work. A purchaser has limited rights to use the work without a separate agreement.

Phonographic Performance Limited British music licensing company

Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) is a British music copyright collective. It is a private limited company that is registered in the UK. PPL was founded by Decca Records and EMI and incorporated on 12 May 1934, and undertakes collective rights management of sound recordings on behalf of its record-company members, and distributes the fees collected to both its record company members and performer members. As of 2019, PPL collected royalties for over 110,000 performers and recording rightsholders.

Performing rights are the right to perform music in public. It is part of copyright law and demands payment to the music's composer/lyricist and publisher. Performances are considered "public" if they take place in a public place and the audience is outside of a normal circle of friends and family, including concerts nightclubs, restaurants etc. Public performance also includes broadcast and cable television, radio, and any other transmitted performance of a live song.

History of music publishing

Music publishing is the business of creating, producing and distributing printed musical scores, parts, and books in various types of music notation, while ensuring that the composer, songwriter and other creators receive credit and royalties or other payment. This article outlines the early history of the industry.

Public domain music is music to which no exclusive intellectual property rights apply. There are several ways that a piece of music can be in the public domain:

Production music is recorded music that can be licensed to customers for use in film, television, radio and other media. Often, the music is produced and owned by production music libraries.

An Internet radio license is a specific type of broadcast license that allows the licensee to operate an Internet radio station. The licensing authority and number of licenses required varies from country to country, with some countries requiring multiple to cover various areas of a station's operation, and other countries not having stringent licensing procedures in place. Licensing costs also vary, based on the number of listeners that a station has, as well as other factors such as the number of songs played, the number of broadcast hours, and whether tracks are dubbed to a digital playout system.

Music Reports

Music Reports serves individuals and organizations seeking expertise and solutions in music rights licensing, administration, royalty accounting, and software development and hosting. Music Reports operates the largest registry of worldwide music rights and related business information.

Fairness in Music Licensing Act of 1998

The Fairness in Music Licensing Act increased the number of bars and restaurants that were exempted from needing a public performance license to play music or television during business hours. The bill was companion legislation passed along with the Copyright Term Extension Act in 1998.

<i>United States v. ASCAP</i>

United States v. American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) et al., No. 09-0539, 2010 WL 3749292, was a United States Court of Appeals case involving copyright liability for third-party vendors that provide online music download services. In particular, the Second Circuit ruled that music downloads do not constitute public performances, upholding the district court's decision and consequently preventing ASCAP from claiming higher royalty fees from Yahoo! and RealNetworks for downloaded music. However, the Second Circuit disagreed with the district court's method of fee assessment and remanded the case for further proceedings. ASCAP appealed the decision and requested a writ of certiorari for judicial review in the Supreme Court.

The Jamaica Association of Composers, Authors and Publishers (JACAP) is a Jamaican not-for-profit membership collective management organization which was established in 1998. JACAP administers the public performance and, if assigned also, the mechanical (reproductive) rights and synchronization rights of lyricists (authors), music composers and music publishers in Jamaica. JACAP is a member of the umbrella organisation for copyright societies CISAC - The International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers. JACAP is also a founding member of The Association of Caribbean Copyright Societies (ACCS).


  1. "Confédération Internationale des Sociétés d'Auteurs et Compositeurs", Wikipedia, 2019-07-08, retrieved 2020-03-11
  2. Deceglie, Paul. "Cut It Out". Entrepreneur. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
  3. "Ex-SESAC Board Member Launches New PRO for 'Digital-Era Creators'". Billboard. Retrieved 2020-02-04.
  4. "Irving Azoff Launches 'Global Music Rights' To Take On ASCAP And BMI". All Access. Retrieved 2020-04-24.
  5. Yim Seung-hye (July 28, 2015). "Divided royalties enrage musicians". Korea JoongAng Daily . Retrieved June 30, 2016.