Times Online: Jools Holland and the songwriter and broadcaster Tom Robinson have also joined the bitter row over licence fees, after YouTube – which is owned by Google – began blocking thousands of music videos by the biggest names in rock and pop after failing to reach agreement with PRS for Music, the UK licensing body.
Official videos from all major music publishers and independent labels have been unobtainable on the UK site for a fortnight. YouTube has accused PRS of demanding a huge hike in fees, while PRS says the company needs to recognise and reward the contribution made by those who create the music.
The website endorsed by Ulvaeus – fairplayforcreators.com – will highlight the "growing concerns of songwriters and composers over the treatment of their work on the internet". Ulvaeus said: "I get cross when internet companies paint the picture of a faceless and immensely powerful ‘intellectual property industry’ as their main enemy just because it suits them. Those under attack are people of flesh and blood, who are passionate about their profession.
"When I speak with younger colleagues about their current situation I feel a strong sense of compassion for them and I understand their anxiety about the future. Some of them feel that their work is being degraded. There are those crusaders for the right to share files who say: ‘Why don’t they go on tour and sing for their supper’. This argument shows a staggering ignorance of the fact that so many of the people who write the songs have, more often than not, never been in contact with artist life. They are producers and songwriters – full stop."
Pete Waterman, the producer and songwriter behind a string of hits, said his work Never Gonna Give You Up, sung by Rick Astley, "must have been played more than 100 million times on YouTube" in the past couple of years. "My PRS for Music income in the year ended September 2008 was £11," he said.
"It is the hard work and creative endeavour of songwriters and musicians everywhere that has been the bedrock upon which many User Generated Content websites have been built – creating huge value for their owners. As well as arguing with them over royalty rates, we should be fighting them to get proper recognition for the part we’ve played in building their businesses."
PRS said many music fans were confused and angry at Google’s decision to remove the music videos. "It cannot be 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," a spokeswoman said.
Jools Holland said: "PRS for Music exists to ensure songwriters and composers are paid their rightful reward for the music they create. It is not a commercial organisation, but a not-for-profit collective of songwriters, composers and publishers. Google is a big commercial entity which must properly pay the very people who make the YouTube service a success."
PRS wants Google to re-instate all music it has removed from YouTube to "enable UK music fans to continue to enjoy a wide range of music across all genres".
A YouTube spokesman said: "We absolutely agree that artists and writers should be paid from the advertising revenue earned from their content on YouTube. That is precisely what we are offering the PRS and what we offer to all of our partners across the music industry. The fees proposed by PRS would mean that YouTube would lose money every single time a music video is played, which is not sustainable for any company."