The company has been accused of demanding composers hand over their performing royalties before they can work with them
Moonbug Entertainment, which specialises in kids TV and music, has been criticised by The Ivors Academy and Musicians’ Union for apparently demanding composers hand over performing rights royalties when working with the company.
The Ivors Academy and Musicians’ Union, who represent musicians, songwriters and composers in the UK, have condemned the use of a ‘letter of direction’ by Moonbug Entertainment that they say forces composers to assign the company all revenues from performing rights royalties when signing a contract with them.
PRS for Music’s letter of direction exists to provide a way for rights holders to direct revenues from royalties to a third-party only in exceptional circumstances, which The Ivors Academy and Musicians’ Union say doesn’t apply in this case.
In response, PRS for Music said: “PRS has always defended the principle that members must have the right to determine their contractual terms with commissioners. We have also been clear that no writer should ever feel compelled to accept terms they believe are not in their interests.”
PRS for Music has confirmed it is contacting Moonbug Entertainment to reinforce the point that they aren’t authorised by PRS to encourage or action any re-assignment of royalties.
The Ivors Academy and Musicians’ Union have been jointly running a campaign called Composers Against Buyouts, to oppose coercive practices that media composers experience.
A code of practice for commissioners is being developed to set out how broadcasters and production companies can work with composers fairly and equitably.
A 2019 survey of media composers by The Ivors Academy showed that 70% have worked for free, 41% had to give away more of their mechanical rights than they wanted to and 86% wanted to see more transparency of information around commissioning practices.
Tom Gray, chair of The Ivors Academy said: “This underhand and coercive behaviour by Moonbug Entertainment must stop immediately. It is the latest coercive practice designed to undermine both the value of composers and the collective rights management system. No composer should agree to these terms, no music publisher should support this practice and, as the Government considers Codes of Practice and the need for Contract Adjustment, The Ivors Academy will not sit idly by and watch this kind of behaviour continue.
“We are looking to start publicly naming companies who we discover are abusing their position of power over writers. We ask writers to please notify us and publishers to please make certain none of their clients are using any such methods.”
Naomi Pohl, general secretary elect of the Musicians’ Union, added: “This is a coercive practice – the commissioner is instigating the assignment of proceeds from the writer’s share, which is intended to ensure creators are properly rewarded for their work, not to provide an additional revenue stream for producers. We will fight back against these practices and empower writers to resist such detrimental deals. Getting work should not be contingent on giving up your royalties.
“This is the latest in a long line of royalty-grabs and shows what some companies will get away with if they’re given half the chance. The imbalance of power in commissioning relationship is too often exploited and we will defend the writer’s right to retain their royalties.”