YouTube last night started blocking some of the world's most popular music videos in the UK after failing to settle a royalties row with the group representing composers and publishers.
The US online video site, owned by Google, has been in negotiations for several months to renew its contract with PRS for Music, the British body that collects royalties for its members each time one of their songs is performed.
YouTube claims that the amount it was being asked to pay was "many, many more times higher than under the previous agreement" and was therefore not "economically sustainable".
"Under PRS's proposed terms we would lose significant amounts of money with every playback," said Patrick Walker, YouTube's director of video partnerships in Europe.
Mr Walker said that the block would remain in place until "mutually acceptable terms" were reached.
However, Steve Porter, chief executive of PRS for Music, said that the organisation was "shocked and disappointed" at YouTube's "drastic action". "We believe [that this] only punishes British consumers and the songwriters whose interests we protect and represent," he said.
Music clips are among the most popular content on YouTube, for which the UK is one of its five biggest markets.
The move means that the videos that YouTube show from large and independent labels will no longer be available, denying all parties advertising revenues.
YouTube will not be blocking music uploaded by artists or users. "I don't think anyone is going to be happy about this, but there's general understanding that we all need to work under terms that are reasonable for our businesses," Mr Walker said.
PRS for Music issues licences for its members' music to be used online, on radio or television, or in live performances.
Mr Walker said that part of the dispute had arisen because PRS was unwilling to tell YouTube what songs were included in the licences. "That's like asking a consumer to buy a CD without knowing what musicians are on it," he said.
PRS said that this was "a classic example of a David and Goliath situation" and that it had increased fees to reflect YouTube's increasing popularity.
Other music services have struggled to establish themselves in the UK, citing licensing difficulties. US-based Pandora blocked its service to UK users in January 2008, saying licensing rates were "unworkable".
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