UK collection society PRS cuts ties with Russian counterpart. But why is it having to act alone?

Andrea C. Martin, CEO of PRS

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine enters its second week, sanctions from western democracies continue to damage the Russian economy.

In addition to economic action taken by nation states, the past few days have seen over 200 multi-national companies boycott the Russian market in protest of its military action in Ukraine.

Some of those firms include Mastercard, Visa, Apple, Ikea and Samsung, while pressure is mounting on corporations that remain, like Coca Cola and McDonalds, to stop trading in Russia.

Meanwhile, Live Nation has announced it will not be doing business in/with Russia, while Netflix has pulled its service – and TikTok has scaled back its platform – in the country.

Now, a powerful entity in the global music rights industry has made its move.

UK collection society PRS for Music represents the rights of over 160,000 songwriters/composers and music publishers around the world, and paid out approximately $900 million (£699.4m) to music rightsholders in 2020.

PRS revealed today (March 8) that it has “formally suspended, with immediate effect,” its rights representation agreement with its Russia-based counterpart, the Russian Authors’ Society RAO.

In a statement, the org said: “PRS for Music has today formally suspended, with immediate effect, our rights representation relationship with RAO, the Russian collecting society for musical works, pending confirmation of its separation from the Russian Government and those individuals and companies on the sanctions lists. We are also working with CISAC to consider the ongoing membership of Russian societies in the global network.

“It is not our desire to punish the Russian composer, songwriter and publisher communities who support peace, and we will work with the global community to identify opportunities to amplify the voices of protest.”

PRS added in its statement: “We will be contacting all our members based in Ukraine to offer our support in their time of need and are working with PRS Members’ Fund to make financial support available to them.”

UPDATE: US-based collection society BMI – which has long held an international reciprocal agreement with PRS – has newly announced in its own statement: “BMI has suspended its copyright representation payments to RAO, the Russian collection society for musical works.

“Additionally, we are working with CISAC on a broader effort that will help benefit creators in the Ukraine and surrounding areas, while also providing humanitarian aid to those who are so desperately in need.”

Following PRS’s action today, senior figures in the music publishing community are asking why one of the world’s most prominent collecting societies has had to make the decision to act on Russia unilaterally, as opposed to being part of an organized global effort to do so.

All eyes now turn to CISAC, the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers – the world’s largest international network of authors’ societies – who, at the time of publication, still counts Russia’s RAO as one of its members.

RAO’s details continue to appear on CISAC’s member directory on its website

A very senior US-based source in the global music publishing industry told MBW today that they, “can’t believe this has to be done unilaterally [by PRS] and that CISAC can’t just kick RAO out already”.

They added: “It’s really just wild at this point.”

In addition to PRS and RAO, CISAC’s members include the likes of ASCAPBMISESACGEMA, STIM, SACEM and SOCAN.

PRS isn’t the only collecting society to unilaterally cut links with Russia’s RAO, however.

A further source in the global music publishing community tells MBW that the Italian Society of authors and Composers, SIAE, decided to stop payments to RAO last week.

SIAE issued a separate statement last week, signed by its President Giulio Rapetti Mogol and seen by MBW, condemning Russia’s invasion.

The statement from SIAE to its members notes that its “ties of friendship with Russian writers and artists remain strong but there is a need to show SIAE’s opposition to war and to aggression”.

“It is not our desire to punish the Russian composer, songwriter and publisher communities who support peace, and we will work with the global community to identify opportunities to amplify the voices of protest.”

PRS for Music

Spotify announced last week that it would be shutting its offices in Russia “indefinitely” will but plans keep its service “operational in Russia to allow for the global flow of information”.

All three majors have made donations to organizations focusing on the people of Ukraine.Music Business Worldwide

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