Music publishing group says it's suing SoundCloud over royalties

A British music industry group that represents more than 111,000 songwriters and publishers is taking legal action against the popular streaming website SoundCloud for copyright infringement.

PRS for Music said Thursday that SoundCloud, which counts 175 million monthly listeners, has failed to obtain licenses and pay royalties for songs by its members, which include Adele.

“If the streaming market is to reach its true potential and offer a fair return for our members, organizations such as SoundCloud must pay for their use of our members’ music,” the group said in a message to its clients. “We believe that all digital services should obtain a license which grants them permission to use our members’ music and repertoire, in this case the works of songwriters, publishers and composers.”

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PRS said going to court was “a difficult decision” but also “one we firmly believe is in the best, long-term interests of our membership.” It did not say what it would seek with its lawsuit.

Berlin-based SoundCloud said in a statement that the suit was not in the best interests of PRS' artists and publishers and said it has been in “active commercial negotiation” with the songwriters organization.

“No one in the world is doing more to enable creators to build and connect with their audience while protecting the rights of creators, including PRS members,” the company said. “We are working hard to create a platform where all creators can be paid for their work, and already have deals in place with thousands of copyright owners, including record labels, publishers and independent artists.”

SoundCloud, launched in 2008, lets its users listen to tracks and also upload and share their own recordings. Independent artists, as well as stars such as Lorde and Drake, have long used it to share their work and find new fans. Record labels have long considered it a valuable promotional outlet.

The service, which started off not paying any royalties, has previously run into trouble with the music industry. But it has recently made moves to generate revenue and share it with musicians. SoundCloud last year began rolling out a program to allow participating artists and labels to make money from advertising.

In recent months SoundCloud has hammered out licensing agreements with Warner Music Group, one of the three major record companies, and Merlin Network, a digital-rights trade group representing 20,000 independent music labels.

It has not secured deals with Universal Music Group or Sony Music Entertainment, the two other major recording companies. In May, Sony, which represents artists such as Hozier and Kelly Clarkson, removed its music from the service over royalties.

Follow Ryan Faughnder on Twitter for more entertainment business coverage: @rfaughnder

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