Doors and Neil Young songs pulled from BBC playlists due to digital rights complications

August 2015

Music publishing, broadcasting



The BBC has warned staff not to play tracks by iconic artists including The Doors and Neil Young due to potential copyright infringement: the full list of songs, all controlled by Wixen Music, extends to recordings, covers and any samples of songs written or recorded by The Doors (Morrison/Manzarek/Densmore/Krieger), Journey (Cain/Perry/Schon) and Neil Young


The removal of the tracks from playlists is because “some rights holders have removed their rights from the MCPS collective agreement… until a new agreement can be reached, we cannot use songs owned by them without a breach of copyright” with an internal BBC memo saying that the publisher in question no longer wanted “wished to be party to the MCPS’s collective licensing arrangements” Bonnie Raitt is also on the excluded list although her works are not represented by Wixen Music.
The BBC’s legal department say:


You can NOT use tracks by these composers on the radio and/or online. 

You can NOT use tracks by these composers whether they are originals or covers. 

You can NOT use the lyrics.

You can NOT put performances using these compositions on line. 

You can NOT use tracks which include samples of these compositions e.g. Tracks by Skrillex/Chase & Status

You can NOT use clips which include any compositions by these composers


CMU Daily opines that “The timing of the BBC memo presumably means that lawyers at the Beeb reckon that its past online radio services have been covered entirely by the Corporation’s PRS licence, but that the offline listening function soon to be added to iPlayer Radio will require a combined MCPS/PRS licence, and that excludes those songwriters who are MCPS hold outs.”
It is thought that Wixen Music does not want to participate in MCPS’s blanket licences for TV synchronisation rights (participation in which is compulsory for all members) and it is thought the publisher prefers the U.S. television sync process where a licence is negotiated directly with the publisher, as with ads, films and video games in the UK.
BBC radio would not be prevented from continuing to air songs from all four acts over the airwaves under its PRS licence. It is the digital domain where matters become more complicated and it is thought the songs are to be excluded from BBC radio because of concerns over licensing stemming from an upgrade to the Corporation’s iPlayer Radio app.


Commenting on the developments, MCPS said: “MCPS endeavours to offer blanket licences to broadcasters to enable them to enjoy ‘all you can eat’ access to record all repertoire into programmes. However membership of MCPS is optional and these repertoires haven’t been members for several years. MCPS therefore has to ensure that any blanket licences transfer appropriate value back to the rights holders in order to be able to continue to offer as much repertoire as possible to broadcasters. PRS, which administers performing rights, however, confirms the works remain available for simple radio broadcast”.

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