British music copyright collective PRS for Music is suing livestreaming platform LIVENow.
The lawsuit was filed last month and first spotted by Law360 with a Dua Lipa livestream at the center. In November 2020, LIVENow streamed the Dua Lipa show with reports of upwards of five million people watching it. Reaching those numbers suggests the stream was made available for free in some markets as only 285,000 ticket sales were generated across 150 countries.
The licensing of livestreaming events became extremely muddled in 2020 as many artists turned to streaming to support themselves in the lockdown. Streaming exploits both the publishing and mechanical rights of the songs–which are often controlled by music publishers. The question at heart here is whether a livestream is more live or more a stream? Rights collectives like PRS take in 4.2% of the box office of a live show. But for streaming rates, it’s closer to 15% of revenue to societies and publishers for licensing.
PRS for Music says it has made repeated attempts to get information about the revenues generated from these livestreams. That way it can work out what licensing fees are due for the show–however LIVENow has been uncooperative. PRS says that none of its members have been paid for the use of their songs and that includes the “globally-streamed Dua Lipa ‘Studio 2054’ online event in November 2020–the highest viewed online concert worldwide.”
PRS launched a new license covering livestreams during the pandemic–which LIVENow failed to do. “PRS for Music’s role is to ensure songwriters and composers, here in the UK and around the world, are paid when their music is used,” says Gavin Larkins, Director of Commercial Development and Sales at PRS. “We take this responsibility very seriously.”
“We provide a license for businesses who offer ticketed online concerts and have licensed many users under this scheme,” Larkins continues. “LIVENow chose not to obtain this license prior to launching its program of online concerts, including the Dua Lipa concert.
“For more than eighteen months, PRS for Music has positively engaged in licensing negotiations with LIVENow. These discussions remain unresolved and as such we have taken action to defend the rights of our members and songwriters.”