PRS stands for 'Performing Rights Society', MCPS is 'Mechanical Copyright Protection Society' and PPL stands for 'Phonographic Performance Limited'. In order to understand how each of these organisations differ in their work, let us first understand 'Copyright' in music.
Copyright is a form of protection, granted by the copyright act of any country's constitution, for original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. It allows an original work to be considered a property that is owned by somebody. It is essentially a bundle of five rights which the owner can exercise. They are:
- Right to duplicate or make copy (also known as mechanical right)
- Right to distribute (sale, rent or lend)
- Right to public performance (perform live and broadcast on radio, TV or online)
- Right to make derivative works (different versions of same song)
- Right to display or exhibit
Out of the above rights the first four rights are relevant to the copyrighting a piece of music or song. When someone writes a song the copyright is automatically created for the writer (composer/lyricist/songwriter). Now, in order to make the creation of the song commercially viable, the writer will have to license the individual rights in exchange of money. Technically, it can be quite a complicated affair to manage such licensing. Therefore the various societies have been established to handle the licensing on behalf of the copyright owner.
PRS - is responsible for licensing the public performance rights on behalf of the copyright owner. The license money is then paid back to the copyright owner as royalties.
MCPS - is responsible for licensing the right to copy or making duplicates. Again this license money is paid back to the copyright owner as royalties.
Any piece of music can be communicated to the public via two popular ways:
- A sound recording
- A written score
Each of the two formats also qualifies for being copyrighted. The licensing of the written score has been traditionally done by the copyright owner (mainly the publisher of the music). For the sound recording it requires a more sophisticated system for licensing due to the nature of the various ways it is used. Therefore, there was a real need to have an infrastructure to manage this complicated process. PPL (Phonographic Performance Limited) was formed for this purpose.
PPL - is responsible for licensing the public performance of the sound recording (in short 'Master') on behalf of the copyright owner. This license money, in the UK, is distributed equally between the owner of the master and the performers on the recording.
As a summary to the above we can say:
PRS licenses the public performance rights of a musical and literary work in a song on behalf of the writers and publishers to broadcasters, music venues and any business using music (including all the online platforms). The license fee is then distributed to the writers and the publishers as royalties. If you want to know more about PRS please visit their website www.prsformusic.com.
MCPS licenses the mechanical copyright of the musical and literary work in a song on behalf of the writers and publishers to broadcasters, record labels, any business copying music and most of the online platforms from where music is either streamed or downloaded. The license fee is then distributed to the writers and the publishers as royalties. If you want to know more about MCPS please visit www.prsformusic.com.
PPL licenses the public performance rights of the sound recording of a song on behalf of the owner of the master to: broadcasters, any business using recorded music (including venues) and online platforms. The license fee is then distributed to the performers on the track and to the master owner as royalties. If you want to know more about PPL please visit www.ppluk.com.
Jataneel Banerjee is a Composer, singer and Music Producer. He founded 'Phoenix Session', an A&R platform to discover unsigned artists for his record label 'Music Mandi'. He established 'Grand Philharmonic Orchestra' and worked on some very high profile shows in UK and abroad. As the membership development manager in PRS, he is proactively establishing and managing relationships between South Asian writers/publishers and PRS for Music.