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Tue 12 Feb 2008 01:53 PM

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Licensing laws turn up the heat on venue operators

New licensing laws are set to shake-up the GCC live entertainment industry.

The impending introduction of new licensing laws regulating the use of copyrighted music in public spaces is set to shake-up the live entertainment production industries in the GCC.

The collective licensing laws, which will impact operators of live venues, bars and clubs and shopping centres to name but a few, are designed to ensure the owner of a piece of music will receive the financial reward due to them as and when their composition is played for public consumption.

They are also designed to ensure the GCC meets the Intellectual Property Right (IPRs) mandates set out by the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Similar regulations have long been in place in countries including the United States, Germany, the UK and Australia.

In the UK, the body responsible for overseeing the country's collective licensing laws, the Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL), collects almost US$200m in revenues on behalf of its members annually - serious money given the country's population of 60 million.

Despite the fact that the GCC boasts a combined population of 35 million, there are few expectations - given the comparative lack of live venues in the region - that similar rates will be implemented here by the Emirates Music Rights Society, the governing body charged with implementing the new licensing regime.

But what is sure is that the new laws will create an added and unwanted burden on the region's fledgling nightclub industry, where the vast bulk of popular music is currently played by venue operators free-of-charge.

The majority of venue operators surveyed by S&S had little knowledge of the impending licensing shake-up. Those that did mostly viewed the changes with begrudging acceptance, while a small minority argued - albeit somewhat sensationally - that it could ultimately send them out of business.

Histrionics aside, the new measures represent important steps towards legitimising the GCC live entertainment production industry's position internationally. Regardless of the initial cost burden, the new laws should be embraced wholeheartedly, to ensure the industry's future prosperity.

Those that refuse to embrace the changes or attempt to sidestep them are not only doing their own cause a disservice, but are also potentially causing long-term damage to the industry as a whole.

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