Discovery Networks Backtracks On Its Controversial Plan to Ditch Performance Royalties

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After howls of protest, Discovery has backed away from its plan to eliminate U.S. performance royalties for composers.

Having faced considerable backlash from composers’ rights groups, Discovery, parent company of several prominent television channels, has abandoned its plan to cease paying U.S. performance royalties to composers.

Discovery revealed a new royalty-distribution system—or lack thereof—in December. Under the plan, royalties traditionally paid to composers whose works are used in television would have been supplanted by once-off payments.

That’s an entirely legal move under U.S. Copyright Law, but it could drastically reduce composer royalties. PROs, which are in the business of administering complex performance royalties, also stirred into action.

Composers would have continued to receive foreign royalties, which are exponentially less lucrative than American royalties. Discovery also made clear that those who didn’t agree to the deal would see their works removed from shows and replaced. This ultimatum may have helped to spur and coordinate the opposition movement, which unified and applied ample pressure to Discovery execs.

As a result of the mentioned criticism and quick-moving negotiations, Discovery shelved the proposed arrangement.

In a statement, the Production Music Association (PMA), which has “670 music publisher and composer members” to its credit and was involved in negotiations, acknowledged that Discovery’s channels “will remain operating as is under the traditional PRO performing rights model.”

Your Music, Your Future, a composer-rights organization, also played a significant role in convincing Discovery to abide by existing royalty standards. The self-described “growing community of over 11,445 composers and creators” is backed by some of the biggest composers in the entertainment industry, including Pinar Toprak (Captain Marvel) and Bear McCreary (The Walking Dead).

Discovery owns and operates Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Science Channel, TLC, Food Network, HGTV, and Travel Channel, among others. When it was announced that the company wouldn’t be using the traditional rights-focused model, its stock, traded under the symbol DISCA, dropped from over $32 per share to less than $30 per share.

At the time of writing, the television network hadn’t publicly commented on the matter.

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