Sony/ATV Music Publishing has granted Sony BMG Music Entertainment the right to collect publishing royalties for many digital uses across several Asian countries, excluding Japan and the Republic of Korea.

Under the deal, which basically mirrors one made between Universal Music Publishing Group and Sony BMG in January, Sony BMG will work closely with the publisher and collecting societies to coordinate digital licensing efforts and, in most territories, collect royalties for them from digital and mobile services.

"We've been pretty adamant that the licensing remains with the publisher," says Guy Henderson, senior VP international for Sony/ATV. "It's a collecting and clearing house concept for us."

Despite haggling between major labels and major publishers on many fronts over digital licensing, Henderson sees this deal as an opportunity to work together for the benefit of the music industry in the emerging markets of China, Hong Kong, Singapore, India and others covered by the deal.

"In many instances, the record company may well have the systems that we need to ensure that royalties are collected and processed accurately," Henderson adds. "If they've got the systems to do it, then why not use those systems? It doesn't change the nature of the licensing process in that region."

Several sources confirm that Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group labels are currently discussing similar arrangements with publishers, and Warner/Chappell Music is in negotiations with some labels. It is unclear whether EMI's recorded music or publishing units are exploring similar options.

"At the moment, there is no industry-wide agreement," Henderson says. "It's very much an agreement between two individual parties. It doesn't mean that everybody is going to do a deal with everybody else. If one doesn't think that a label can do a decent job on this front, then a deal won't be done. It's very much a case of who can do it and who can't do it."

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