Collecting societies
Collecting societies

The following IP practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Collecting societies
  • Who owns the copyright?
  • Collecting society and CMO—legal status
  • Copyright collecting societies in the UK
  • Benefits of membership for copyright owners
  • Disadvantages for rights holders/users
  • Benefits and disadvantages for licensees
  • Disputes with collecting societies and CMOs
  • Improved regulation of collecting societies
  • UK regulation of collecting societies and CMOs
  • More...

As of exit day (31 January 2020) the UK is no longer an EU Member State. However, in accordance with the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK has entered an implementation period, during which it continues to be subject to EU law. This has an impact on this Practice Note. For further guidance, see Practice Note: Brexit—IP rights.

Collecting societies, also referred to as licensing bodies, offer rights holders a way of collectively licensing and enforcing their copyright in situations where it would be impractical for them to police use of their own works. A Collective Management Organisation (CMO) is a type of collecting society which grants rights on behalf of multiple rights holders in a single blanket licence obtained for a single payment. Generally speaking, rights holders will join a CMO as members and instruct it to license rights on their behalf. Each collecting society operates in a different creative sector.

Their role is to:

  1. offer membership to holders of relevant rights in their particular sector

  2. license copyright on behalf of all their members

  3. collect and distribute royalties both in the UK and internationally

Collecting societies are non-profit making corporate organisations but retain a percentage of royalties to cover administration costs.

Who owns the copyright?

Members of a collecting society may either:

  1. assign their copyright to the collecting society, or

  2. authorise the collecting society to grant licences and enforce copyright

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