UK performing rights society PRS is suing livestreaming platform LiveNow over unpaid licensing fees.
According to a report on Law360 (first seen on Complete Music Update) PRS claims LiveNow ran more than two dozen online performances without paying for a license, including Dua Lipa‘s Nov. 2020 performance at Printworks London.
PRS said it wholly or partly owned the songs performed during that gig, which was watched by audiences in 150 countries, and attracted almost 285,000 ticket sales, priced between £8.99 ($10.95) and £15 ($18), according to the claim. The event was then later made available on demand.
PRS can only collect performance royalties for the tickets sold in the UK, raising the question, whether the performing rights organizations responsible for the other countries will now feel encouraged to assert their claims, too.
Dua Lipa’s Printworks performance set a Guinness record for tickets sold for an online concert, making it the most prominent, but not the only livestream hosted on LiveNow.
PRS does not have the number of consumers who streamed each event, according to the Law360 report, but has asked the court to order LiveNow to disclose customer information for the past six years.
Pollstar has reached out to LiveNow, which triggered several automatic responses informing that the individuals contacted no longer worked for the company. A contact given as a replacement did not respond to an inquiry. The LiveNow website currently shows only a landing page.
Livestream licensing is a vast topic. Pollstar spoke to managers and licensing experts back in 2020 to find out exactly how it works. Adam Elfin of direct licensing organization PACE broke it down as follows:
“If you want to do a livestream, you’re going to need a license from the PRO in every single territory you’re going to sell tickets in, or you have to geo-block that territory.
“There’s the possibility that companies hosting past livestreams will retrospectively receive mail from the world’s various PROs, pointing out that a license to broadcast the stream in their territory was never acquired.”
Which is, of course, exactly what has now occurred with the PRS.
Elfin continued, “We’re not just talking about the PROs on the publishing side, it’s a recording, therefore you don’t just need a PRS and GEMA license, you also need a license from PPL and GVL, again, you need that in every country. Additionally there’s a synch involved, so you also need a license from the publishers, writers, artistes, and potentially record companies of the rights being performed.
“To recap, if you want to sell tickets worldwide, you’ll need a license from every PRO on the publishing side in the world, a license from all the publishers and songwriters of all the works performed, licenses from all the PROs on the master side around the world, and you also need licenses from the performers and potentially the record companies of the artistes performing.”