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Artists say Google "cheapening" music industry

Folk legend Billy Bragg and former Bee Gee Robin Gibb have denounced Google as "cheapening" the music industry in the recent royalties row between YouTube and PRS for Music.

Earlier this month, YouTube began blocking UK access to music videos after Google failed to reach a new royalties agreement with PRS for Music, the British body that collects royalties for composer and publishers.

Bragg, along with Gibb and other artists, including producers Pete Waterman and Mike Chapman, have penned a letter to The Times, saying that the dispute devalues songwriters and musicians, demanding that Google "reinstate music on YouTube and pay a fair price for it".

The letter includes the signatures of over 500 other songwriters and musicians, including Mark Kelly from UK band Marillion, who claims that he received 0.6p in royalties from Google in the past three months, even though his band's music videos had been viewed over 10m times on YouTube.

Yesterday, similar talks with Germany's royalties body GEMA broke down, resulting in YouTube pulling music videos from its German website.

PRS for Music is asking Google to pay 0.22p every time a song is played on YouTube, but the internet giant refused the price, saying: " The costs are simply prohibitive for us -- under PRS's proposed terms we would lose significant amounts of money with every playback".

In the letter, the group wrote: "Music fans in the UK are confused and angry at Google's stance. We, as songwriters and composers of music, share those concerns. It is not in anyone's best interests to block access to music.

"Fans are denied enjoyment, creators aren't paid and illegal music sites benefit from the resulting displacement of web traffic.

"In 2007 the UK's independent Copyright Tribunal established that a minimum royalty per play was an essential requirement in the licensing of online services.

"Google fails to recognise this and ascribes little value to music -- in spite of a huge increase in music usage on YouTube's UK service."

The Times said that 300m music videos were watched on YouTube in the UK in the last three months of 2008, meaning Google would be required to pay PRS £6.6m under the disputed terms just for one quarter.

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