Page last updated at 15:46 GMT, Friday, 13 March 2009

YouTube music video row heats up

By Ian Youngs
Music reporter, BBC News

Alesha Dixon video on YouTube
YouTube is in the process of blocking premium music videos in the UK

YouTube has been accused of trying to "bully" British songwriters in a growing row over pay for music videos.

YouTube UK is blocking all premium music clips after failing to agree a new deal with the Performing Right Society (PRS) to pay royalties.

Feargal Sharkey, the former Undertones singer and now head of industry body UK Music, said it was a "blatant, cynical, manipulative" negotiating tactic.

YouTube dismissed the comments and said it wanted to pay artists a fair price.

A deal between YouTube and the PRS, which set out how much the website pays songwriters every time their videos are watched, has expired.

The two sides are now wrangling over a new fee. YouTube says the PRS is demanding "many, many times" the previous rate, but the PRS says YouTube wants to pay "significantly less than at present".

Sharkey accused Google, which owns YouTube, of blocking the videos in order to force the PRS to lower its price.

Feargal Sharkey
Feargal Sharkey described YouTube's stance as "mildly offensive"

Sharkey said Google was a "large company thinking they're in a position to bully around a little society that represents 60,000 songwriters".

UK Music is an umbrella body for the British commercial music industry, and counts the PRS among its members.

"Quite frankly I'd hoped that by this point in the week Google would have reflected on the mistake they'd made and were willing to move away from the position they'd taken," Sharkey said.

"But quite clearly they're still in the mood to bully our songwriters, our musicians, and that's not acceptable."

Sharkey also charged Google with attempting to "hold them hostage and demand that they start to underwrite their business model".

"That is totally inappropriate and in fact mildly offensive," he said.

YouTube said talks with the PRS were ongoing. The site started blocking videos last week and would continue working its way though its catalogue, its director of video partnerships Patrick Walker said.

"We are 100% in support of compensating artists, 100% in support of providing users with a sustainable service, and we are very much hoping for a resolution as soon as we possibly can," he said.

He said the fee PRS wanted was "much higher" than the previous deal, and that there was still "a significant gap" between the two sides.

The negotiations "may take a couple of weeks", he added. "But I think there's a sufficient amount of motivation on both parts to come to a solution. Nobody wins when the content is blocked. We need a win-win solution and that is what we're hoping for."

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