Implementing Performing Rights

Hector MacQueen, Alan Peacock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The purpose of this contribution is to move the study of performing rights forward and away from discussion of matters of principle to matters of implementation. Our procedure is to identify the chronological steps which have to be taken by composers or their representatives in ensuring that their property right can be exploited, resulting in payment for performances. At each step we shall attempt to offer observations, based principally but by no means solely on UK experience, on both the economic and legal issues that arise. The first stage in the exploitation of copyright is to create a work in a discernible form. In music this has traditionally taken the form of a score. However, today most popular music will take the form of a taped performance. This is followed by critical discussion of the term of copyright protection and whether a monopoly is created in respect of performing rights. In addition to performing rights, account has also to be taken of performers' rights, raising issues of where copyright protection ends and performers' rights begin. The second stage of exploitation is publication, promotion and performance of the work, a matter so complex that it has necessitated the establishment of collective organisations of authors and publishers to be effective. Policy issues arise about the relations between the members of such organisationsinter se, and between the organisations and users, and these are illustrated by a number of examples from the history of the British Performing Right Society. Disputes led to the establishment of specialist tribunals in the UK and elsewhere, and there have also been investigations of collecting societies by the British and EC competition authorities. The global market for music means that such issues transcend national frontiers, and there is some discussion of how performing rights are enforced internationally. The paper concludes by identifying a number of major issues: whether or not collecting societies operate against the consumer interest (it is suggested, generally not); the extent to which ‘serious’ music is or should be subsidised by diversion of the income of the collecting societies in its support; and the possible extension of collective copyright administration into other fields, against the background of ever-increasing cross-border activity in cultural matters generally.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-175
JournalJournal of Cultural Economics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1995


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