BBC bans staff from playing Neil Young and The Doors

The BBC has warned staff not to play tracks by iconic artists including The Doors and Neil Young due to potential copyright infringement, MBW can reveal.

The Beeb’s radio and TV stations are not permitted to play or use any tracks written or recorded by The Doors (Morrison/Manzarek/Densmore/Krieger), Journey (Cain/Perry/Schon), Neil Young and Bonnie Raitt.

The reason for the ban is a removal of these songs from the annual blanket licensing agreement between the BBC and UK mechanical rights collection society MCPS.

Any tracks which sample recordings or compositions by these acts have also been blacklisted at the Beeb – as have cover versions of their songs.

In an internal note to staff seen by MBW, the BBC explained that “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”.

It added that the rights-holders of the tracks no longer “wished to be party to the MCPS’s collective licensing arrangements”.

The mechanical rights of all the artists – except Bonnie Raitt – are represented by Wixen Music.

When contacted by MBW, the company told us that the problem is a historical one: The Doors have not been MCPS members since 2006, Neil Young since 2002 and Journey since 2013.

UPDATE: Wixen says it favours a move to a case-by-case US-style sync licensing model by the Beeb, while questioning the fairness of the MCPS blanket agreement.

“The BBC can use Neil Young and the Doors any time they negotiate a license with us to do so in a given program,” a spokesperson told MBW.

“All we are saying is that we won’t pre-approve uses or fees if the clients have not had an opportunity to review and approve the uses and fees.

“In the USA, where these artists are based, TV uses are approved and fees negotiated by the artists and songwriters, or their representatives, and our clients are not used to blanket pre-agreed uses and fees.

“This is just basic respect for artists and songwriters wishing to determine how their work is used and at what fees.”

UPDATE: A BBC spokesperson explained that the MCPS issue had arisen this week because the Beeb will soon launch a feature allowing users to download radio and music programmes to listen to offline via the iPlayer Radio App.

As for the likelihood that the BBC will sign a direct mechanical rights deal with any publisher or songwriter?

In a further message to staff, the Beeb said: “The BBC believes that single blanket collective licensing remains the most efficient and highly cost effective way to licence its music.”

UPDATE: A spokesperson for MCPS/PRS 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.”

Answering a question over whether BBC presenters should apologise on-air for the lack of tracks of The Doors, the Beeb said in its memo that “of course we’re sorry if any listeners are upset by these artists’ absence”.

It added: “Our current arrangements enable around 250,000 individual uses per week by the BBC of musical works covered by our licences – which are enjoyed by millions of viewers, listeners and BBC online users.”Music Business Worldwide

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