Copyright is crucial in sustaining creative sector

As physical sales decline and consumer habits change, copyright is increasingly important in protecting the creative industries, writes Peter Leathem

Copyright is fundamental to the livelihoods of the thousands of individuals and organisations that seek to make a living from their creativity. They add to the UK’s expansive repertoire of music, film, literature and design that contributes so much to the country’s economy and culture.

All those who invest their time and talent in making recorded music must be fairly paid for their work, and in the last few years, we’ve seen the growing importance of this revenue stream (commonly known as performance rights) at a time when physical sales decline and music consumption habits in a digital world continue to evolve.

With the ongoing shift in consumer behaviour around usage and digital set to accelerate, the protection of intellectual property remains imperative and is very much at the forefront of maximising royalties.

The government recently appointed a champion of intellectual property, Mike Weatherley MP, and a House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee report publicly recognised the serious risks that the dilution of intellectual property rights and failure to tackle online piracy pose to the creative sector.

At PPL, where I’m CEO, we license recorded music that’s played in public, broadcast and online, and make sure artists are fairly remunerated.

We are free to join and not for profit which means that everything that we collect (less costs) is given back to our membership, which includes major record labels, globally successful performers and record producers, as well as many independent labels and session musicians ranging from orchestral players to percussionists and singers.

This year marks the 80th anniversary of PPL, and we’ve seen significant growth through the years – we’ve gone from collecting GBP1m (€1.2m) in our first full decade of business to over GBP170m in 2012.

Recognising that the UK is a major exporter of music, we have expanded our role to actively collect royalties for our members internationally via agreements with other music licensing companies – known as Collective Management Organisations (CMOs) – around the world.

This means that PPL members can receive monies when their work is used in those countries. We currently have 68 agreements with CMOs in 34 countries, including the US, Europe, Asia and South America. In 2012, we collected GBP36.6m in international revenues.

There are over 300 TV channels, approximately 800 radio stations (commercial, BBC, hospital, community etc) and 600 online radio stations with PPL licences and we also licence over 300,000 public performance sites (shops, bars, gyms, etc).

In the past few years, we have also worked to increase performer representation on the PPL main board and ‘performer board’ to better represent the needs of both record companies and performers. This took effect at our most recent Annual Performer Meeting in 2013, where we saw songwriter and producer Crispin Hunt and performer and songwriter Mark Kelly elected as performer directors, taking the total number of PPL performer directors to five.

The needs of our members is at the heart of everything that we do, and we look forward to being able to serve them with even greater effectiveness and clarity as the industry evolves.