Performance Rights Societies

Performance Rights Societies (“PRS”) or performance rights organizations perform intermediary functions such as collecting royalties for non-dramatic performances of intellectual property.  Performance rights societies are responsible for the copyright licenses of the performance of works.  A license from the owner or the licensing agent is required to use a song or copyrighted work.  The majority of licensing for music performances in the United States is conducted under the auspices of the following three performance rights societies: (1) the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (“ASCAP”); (2) Broadcast Music, Inc. (“BMI”); and (3) the Society of European Stage Actors and Composers (“SESAC”).

PRS’s collect the royalties from radio stations, TV stations, programming companies, Internet marketers and any other entity where music and related intellectual property is used.  These royalties are paid to the various publishers and authors associated with a particular recording or performance.  An individual has to pay an annual fee for the privilege to perform an unlimited number of performances of one or more of any of the works derived from the performance rights societies’ respective catalogues.  In addition to such blanket licenses, a per program license, on a monthly basis, may also be obtained.

Individual artists and song writers have limited resources and time to collect royalties from various parties that use their music or work, even though they are entitled to those royalties by the authority of law.  This is where the performance rights societies come in to play.  Artists rely on PRS to locate public performances and to collect royalties.  PRS usually collect royalties only when use of a work is incidental to an organization’s purpose.  In addition to collecting royalty, PRS can also bring the alleged violators to law. Additionally, PRS also publish statistics of publicly performed works.  After receiving payment, a performing rights society distributes royalties to the music writer and publisher.  Performing rights societies often have authorization from members to bring suit against infringers.

Performing rights societies provide a valuable service to musicians by protecting their collective economic interests.  PRS represent artists and creators of copyrighted material and collect license fees for public performances of the copyrighted material in their repertoire.  Performance rights societies are a necessary and helpful medium for musicians and publishers to get what is lawfully due to them.


Inside Performance Rights Societies