Texas Trademark Lawyer Tamera Bennett

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UAE No Collection of Music Royalties; No Reciprocity

by Tamera H. BennettPosted October 28, 2008

Sometimes we exist in our own bubble and forget that the creators and copyright owners in certain other countries do not have the same benefits as creators and copyright owners in the US.

I've been tracking the music business in the UAE (United Arab Emirates) which is a Middle Eastern federation of seven states situated in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula in Southwest Asia on the Persian Gulf, bordering Oman and Saudi Arabia. The seven states, termed emirates, are Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain.

Music in the Middle East is moving a mile a minute, as telecommunications companies look at becoming content creators while media companies sign deals with phone makers to package songs with mobiles.

But behind all the commotion loom unanswered structural questions about how the composers who wrote a hot download will get paid.

You see, even though the UAE Copyright Act provides for both a right of public performance and mechanical reproduction, there are no collection agencies in place for the publishers and songwriters to join so that that there is a central licensing and collection service. In the United States songwriters and publishers join one of three performing rights organizations: ASCAP, BMI or SESAC. These collection societies then have reciprocal agreements with performing rights organizations across the world.

Because the UAE does not have a performance rights society, not only does the UAE composer/publisher miss out on collecting performance royalties in the UAE, if a song that is owned by a UAE publisher is performed in the United States there is no reciprocal agreement for payment to be sent to the UAE publisher.

One way around the reciprocal agreement issue is for a UAE composer/publisher to enter into a sub-publishing agreement with a company that can register the song(s) in the US and other countries under the name of the sub-publisher for collection purposes. This is what Fairwood/BKP Music in Dubai has done by inking a deal with Universal Music Publishing Group in August this year.

In general, a sub-publisher takes a percentage of collections for its services. This usually ranges on the low-end from 10 percent to the high-end of 35 percent of gross receipts.

Reciprocity works both ways. Because there is no performing rights society in the UAE, US composers and publishers are not being paid performance royalties for their songs that are performed in the UAE.

In other music news in the UAE, Nokia has also recently launched the first legal music download service in the UAE.