Creative management group joins with IBM on global copyright platform

The Zender Agenda

The Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers of Music and IBM Corp. today announced a 10-year alliance to develop a platform on the IBM Cloud to manage payments of residual fees to musicians and other artists and their publishers in the digital age.

The platform, named “URights,” is expected to be in operation by the end of 2017, and while it is intended for use by SACEM, which is a Paris-based global cultural and creative collective management organization, it will be designed with open application program interfaces to support other similar associations worldwide.

The concept of residual rights goes back to the early days of radio in the 1930s. Every time a record is played on the radio, the performers have a right to be paid a residual fee. Associations like SACEM in France and The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers in the United States were formed to coordinate these payments. They receive lists from radio, and later television stations showing what recordings were played when. They compile these, bill the stations and distribute the money to their member artists and publishers each month.

In the days of broadcast, this was a manageable process involving monthly lists from a few thousand stations at most. Cloud-based streaming and download services such as Netflix and YouTube, which deliver music, audio and video on an individual basis, have made the process much more complex. Last year SACEM, which represents 160,000 member artists and publishers in France, the Middle East, Brazil and other countries worldwide, alone processed 99 billion individual accesses from more than 200 online providers, most of them with worldwide scope. It distributed $50 million in residual fees to its members. SACEM Chief Executive Jean-Noël Tronc said traffic has doubled each year for at least the last three years and will probably double again this year. His association processes terabytes of data from the services each year.

Two years ago his board realized that this traffic is rapidly growing beyond SACEM’s internal ability to process using its traditional methods, and it started looking for a partner. After a lengthy search, it selected IBM for three reasons, Tronc said. First, the IBM cloud has a global footprint, and “we are very impressed with the turnaround times IBM has been achieving in cloud technology innovation in the last two years.”

Second, IBM guaranteed that SACEM would retain control over the process and ownership of the data. This means it is not creating a potential competitor. Third, IBM has the advanced big data and data analysis technologies that the platform requires.

IBM sees the partnership as an opportunity to work with a worldwide industry leader to support performance distribution in the digital age. “The important point is the dramatic transformation in the way music and other audio/visual content is consumed worldwide,” said Steve Canepa, general manager for the global telecommunications, media and entertainment industry at IBM. By combining SACEM’s expertise with IBM’s global cloud platform and its big data, security and analytics tools, it expects to create an architecture that can keep pace with the rapid transformation of this industry, Canepa said.

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