Public performance rights are the reason behind songwriters and publishers joining together to form
performance rights organizations such as Ascap, PRS, Gema, Buma and Sacem. These PRO's can act as a
licensing clearinghouse for game developers, representing the owners of the publishing rights in licensing matters and monitor compliance to legal arrangements
Often, performance rights organizations offer an individual license for a
particular audiovisual production such as a game. This license covers the public performance rights in
case of digital distribution, download or online game (streamed gameplay combined with streamed
music). As an exception to this rule, the USA and Canada do not legally recognize music in a streamed or
downloaded game as an act of public performance. European countries on the other hand do recognize an online or
dowloadable game containing music as a public performance of this music thus, depending on the type of music used, a license is needed when distributing in these parts of the
Furthermore, in the USA, Ascap, BMI and Sesac do not grant licenses for
dramatic (''grand'') works - the owners of the publishing rights have to be contacted directly to obtain the
appropriate license. This means agreement about the terms must be made in negotiations.
The aforementioned differences can make interterritorial music clearance a complex process.
Of course, a venue or store doing promotional game play would need a PRO license for
displaying and performing the accompanying music. This however doesn't affect the game studio: it is the
responsablility of the venue itself. The PRO will collect the performance rights royalties and pay them directly to
the songwriter and his publisher (instead of the publisher receiving sync royalties and mechenical license
royalties directly from the source, and paying the songwriters share to the songwriter afterwards).
It is important not to confuse public performance rights on the underlying musical work with the actual musical performance by musicians or the band on the master
(the sound recording). Remember the legal distinction between publishing rights and master recording rights.
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