Performance Rights Organizations (PROs)

Performance Rights Organizations (PROs) provide intermediary functions, particularly royalty collection, between copyright holders and parties who wish to use copyrighted works publicly such as shopping and dining venues. Legal consumer purchase of works, such as buying CDs from a music store, confer private performance rights. PROs usually only collect royalties when use of a work is incidental to an organization’s purpose. Royalties for works essential to an organization’s purpose, such as theaters and radio, are usually negotiated directly with the rights holder.

In some countries PROs are called copyright collectives or copyright collecting agencies. A copyright collective is more general than a PRO as it is not limited to performances and includes reproduction rights organizations (RROs). RROs represent works distributed via mediums such as CD, audiocassette, or computer file rather than use of works in public settings.

PROs license public performances of their members’ music which includes network television, cable TV, cable movie channels (HBO, Showtime, etc.), use in nightclubs, stores, restaurants and other public performances. PROs only licenses performing rights, and only non-dramatic performing rights.

In order to effectively and efficiently enforce their rights under the copyright laws, American composers, lyricists, and publishers usually join one of three performing rights organizations. These groups grant licensees the right to publicly perform the works of all their members or affiliates, for whom the societies collect and distribute fees for the licenses granted. More than 85% of the fees collected by the two largest organizations are paid to composers and publishers as royalties for the performance of their copyrighted works.

Foreign writers and publishers are also represented by these organizations. Under this system, composers and publishers are relieved of the burden of monitoring their copyrights throughout the world. Moreover, those who wish to publicly perform copyrighted works need not negotiate royalties with each composer or publisher whose works they want to use.


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