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Auntie's Comfort Blanket?

64 IvanChandlerIn tune with Ivan Chandler of Musicalities.

When cover by the BBC blanket licence is not so cosy.


The BBC has ongoing music licensing agreements with PRS (The Performing Right Society), MCPS (the Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society) - jointly known as PRS for Music - and PPL (Phonographic Performance Limited) giving the broadcaster effectively blanket coverage to use whatever music they like.

Through reciprocal arrangements with similar songwriter and publisher societies around the world, PRS for Music offers the BBC the right to use a vast repertoire of thousands of songs and other musical compositions of every conceivable genre.

PPL represents record companies and its affiliated labels internationally and licenses its recorded music catalogues in a similar way.

The BBC pays millions of pounds to these organisations each year whereby no prior approval is required to use music. This arrangement is subject to the usage being reported to PRS for Music and PPL enabling them to distribute the royalties to its members.


These arrangements are commonly termed as 'blanket licences'. However, these licences are not on a carte blanche basis.
The exception to the blanket licences include:-
- Parodies (pastiche or burlesque versions of songs)
- Spoken lyrics of songs quoted in, say, a radio quiz
- Grand Right Works (stage musicals, operas, ballets, etc)
- Music used as a TV series theme tune for three or more episodes
- Cross fading of one commercial sound recording into another


In such cases, special permission must be obtained from the rights holders possibly resulting in costly fees or, even denial for the requested use which is something a producer would wish to avoid, especially if the programme has otherwise been completed.


Whilst ITV, Channel 4, Five, Sky and other broadcasters have similar blanket licences with PRS for Music and PPL, each agreement has subtle differences and certainly more exceptions than the BBC agreements.


Learning more about music copyright, related rights and the clearance process must surely be a 'must' for anyone in the business of audio-visual production.


Do write and tell us of your experiences - whether good or bad. The BluePencilSet team will then pick one entry of whom the writer will be offered a free place at one of the next Music Copyright Seminars hosted by Musicalities Limited, one the UK's leading music consultancies, held in conjunction with BluePencil.

Julian Wilkins

Julian Wilkins is Editorial Director for Blue Pencil Media Limited. Julian has a LLB (Hons) in law and M.Phil in law as well as a Diploma in European law and was admitted as a solicitor in 1988; he practices in the area of media, entertainment, and intellectual property law as a consultant for Devereaux Solicitors in London. Julian is also a Notary Public and CEDR accredited commercial mediator. Julian has written for academic publications and contributed to an Exhibition Catalogue about 1960s photographer Philip Townsend. Julian is a member of the International Association of Entertainment Lawyers and also the British Institute of International and Comparative law. Julian is a finalist in The Media Lunch Club “Short Circuit” script competition to be held in November 2011. Julian’s comments “The rapidly changing world economy and technology is presenting incredible opportunities for the Creative Industries and Blue Pencil hopes to reflect and contribute to these changes.”

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