- 9 Mar 09, 16:34 GMT
You might have thought that the sounds of brakes being slammed on in the 100% legal, 24/7 digital content world had long since faded into the distance.
But try and watch a video of Leona Lewis singing on YouTube UK in the next few days and you will quickly realise that the digital world is not so switched on and simple as you might have previously thought.
YouTube in the UK is blocking access to all premium music videos because of a failure to reach agreement with the Performing Right Society over a new license to stream content. It is a reflection of the byzantine world of music rights online.
Despite the fact that YouTube has deals in place with three of the four major record labels in the world it still has to seek a separate deal with music publishers, many of whom use the PRS, in order to get rights to the music and lyrics in each music video.
YouTube UK is saying that the fees charged by the PRS in the UK are "prohibitive" and would mean it would lose money on each click of a video.
It begs the question: If true, who can make a business in the online music streaming world if Google cannot?
There may be an element of "brinkmanship" by YouTube in all of this. There's no suggestion that the PRS was seeking a block to all music video content while discussions continued.
Indeed, when I spoke to the PRS today they seemed taken aback by this move by YouTube. Later they made clear that the first they had heard about this move was when I had telephoned to tell them.
As their boss Steve Porter said: "We were shocked and disappointed to receive a call late this afternoon informing us of Google's drastic action which we believe only punishes British consumers and the songwriters whose interests we protect and represent."
Pointedly, in the statement released to the press by the PRS the final line reads: Google had revenues of $5.7bn in the last quarter of 2008.
But regardless of the motives of YouTube's tactics and the PRS' response this is a much wider issue.
Last year, popular US online streaming service Pandora had to close its doors to listeners outside of the US because it said it could not afford a licence with the PRS and the labels.
Pandora boss Tim Westergren said in an e-mail to users in the UK that the rases were "far too high to allow ad supported radio to operate and so, hugely disappointing and depressing to us as it is, we have to block the last territory outside of the US."
Pandora is not alone: Real Networks, MySpace UK and Imeem have all had problems getting a music video or music streaming business of the ground because of this issue.
You can hear the frustration clearly when Tim Westergren wrote: "It continues to astound me and the rest of the team here that the industry is not working more constructively to support the growth of services that introduce listeners to new music and that are totally supportive of paying fair royalties to the creators of music.
"I don't often say such things, but the course being charted by the labels and publishers and their representative organizations is nothing short of disastrous for artists whom they purport to represent -- and by that I mean both well known and indie artists."
YouTube is a little more sanguine: "We value the creativity of musicians and song writers and have worked hard with rights-holders to generate significant online revenue for them and to respect copyright.
"But PRS is now asking us to pay many, many times more for our license than before."
Other UK companies too have complained loudly about the issue.
Martin Stiksel, from successful UK-based firm Last.FM, said recently: "We need a total overhaul of how digital content is licensed and distributed on the web. I'd like to see one single compulsory licence for digital content holders: for music, royalties could be distributed according to how often it is played."
Of course, while parts of the the music industry and firms like YouTube struggle to reach deals consumers must be scratching their heads in amazement at such obstacles to delivering legal content in a timely and straightforward fashion.
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