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ITV loses High Court appeal against PRS For Music rate ruling

By | Published on Thursday 23 February 2017


ITV has lost its High Court appeal against a copyright tribunal ruling last year that said it should pay higher royalties to PRS For Music to cover the performing rights in the songs it broadcasts.

This case has been rumbling on for some time now, and relates to negotiations over the commercial broadcaster’s 2014-2017 rates. ITV wanted fees capped at the 2013 rate of £23.5 million per year. However, PRS For Music argued for an increase of the base rate to just over £24 million, plus additional payments based on ITV’s viewing figures and the Retail Price Index.

Of course, when rights owners choose to licence as one through a collecting society, the resulting deal making may be subject to extra rules and regulations in order to satisfy competition law. In the UK, if the society and a licensee cannot reach an agreement, the matter can be taken to a special court called the copyright tribunal where a judge will decide a rate. And that is where ITV and PRS ended up – resulting in an increase in admin fees at PRS on royalties collected from TV licensees, to fund the legal costs.

When the copyright tribunal ruled in PRS For Music’s favour last year, ITV launched an appeal in the High Court, which was this week rejected. The High Court told ITV that the lower court “had not made an error of law in reaching its decision”.

Commenting, PRS Commercial Director Paul Clements said: “In June 2016, the copyright tribunal decided a dispute over the terms of ITV’s broadcast licence in PRS For Music’s favour. The tribunal decision set down clear and compelling reasons for an increase in the licence fee, reflecting the right value for our members’ music”.

“While ITV chose to appeal this decision, I am pleased that the High Court has now rejected their arguments and upheld the original tribunal decision”, he continued. “This result is very real evidence of our commitment to secure the right value for our members’ work”.

Obviously the period being argued over is now nearing its end, which likely means new rates need to be agreed for 2018. Another thing that the copyright tribunal approved last year was a new formula devised by PRS For Music to determine future rate increases.