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YouTube is to block thousands of music videos by the biggest names in rock and pop for British users after failing to reach agreement with the UK music licensing body. Official videos from all major music publishers and independent labels, covering artists from Rihanna to U2 to The Killers, will become unobtainable in the next couple of days. YouTube said it was taking the unprecedented action after PRS for Music, the royalty collection body in the UK, demanded a "prohibitive" hike in licensing fees. Patrick Walker, director of video partnerships for YouTube in Europe, said: "In the UK we've had a licence from the collecting society called PRS for Music to make music videos provided by our record label partners available to our users in the UK. PRS is now asking us to pay many, many times more for our license than before. The costs are simply prohibitive for us - under PRS's proposed terms we would lose significant amounts of money with every playback." PRS for Music negotiates song and lyrics licence fees for the public performance of music, whether live or recorded. It has agreements with radio stations, television broadcasters and online music channels in the UK. YouTube, owned by Google, said that the current licence with PRS had expired and despite months of negotiation, no agreement had been possible. All professional videos produced by the music labels will be affected. If, for example, a user in the UK searches for the latest video by U2 - Get Your Boots On - they will not be able to find it or a note will come up saying it is not available to users in the UK. Videos uploaded by YouTube users, which make up the vast majority of videos on the site, will not be affected. PRS for Music immediately hit back saying it was "outraged on behalf of consumers and songwriters" that Google has chosen to close down access to music videos on YouTube in the UK. In a statement PRS said: "This action has been taken without any consultation with PRS for Music and in the middle of negotiations between the two parties. PRS for Music has not requested Google to do this and urges them to reconsider their decision as a matter of urgency." Steve Porter, CEO of PRS for Music, said "We were shocked and disappointed to receive a call late this afternoon informing us of Google's drastic action which we believe only punishes British consumers and the songwriters whose interests we protect and represent." The move will hit music fans in the UK hard. YouTube is the most popular online video site in the world and has become an important part of the way music labels have promoted bands through video releases. Rihanna's music video Disturbia has been viewed more than 35 million times worldwide in the last seven months. YouTube is the third most visited website in the UK after Google and Facebook, according to web research company Hitwise. The video channels on YouTube offered by the music companies, such as Universal Music Group, are among the most popular. YouTube has had a series of battles over music licensing. Warner Music last year pulled its videos out of YouTube after failing to reach an agreement. The music labels and performance rights companies are under pressure to generate as much income as possible from their output. Universal is negotiating with YouTube to set up a stand-alone video site to showcase its music videos as a way of attracting premium advertising. Meanwhile YouTube has introduced a series of features to allow music labels to make more money from its online videos. These include overlay ads on the videos and a click-to-buy feature where users in the UK can immediately click to go to iTunes to buy the music they are watching. YouTube said it was taking a stand on behalf of online music streaming services. "The terms that have come up are economically unsustainable, not only for us but for the industry as a whole," Mr Walker told The Times. YouTube said it had to take into account the cost of streaming the videos on such a large scale. PRS for Music represents music writers, composers and publishers, bringing together two royalty collection societies, MCPS and PRS. It collects and pays royalties to its members when their music is recorded onto any format and distributed to the public, performed or played in public, broadcast or made publicly available online. Both royalty organisations are "not for profit" and only deduct a administration/commission fee to cover operating costs. YouTube also said that PRS for Music had been unwilling to set out which artists were included in the new licensing deal. Up until recently, all music and lyric royalties were collected by one body but a change in the rules allows artists to nominate other bodies to do it. "PRS is unwilling to tell us what songs are included in the licence they can provide so that we can identify those works on YouTube - that's like asking a consumer to buy a blank CD without knowing what musicians are on it," Mr Walker said. Andrew Shaw, managing director of PRS for Music broadcast and online, added that because the number of people viewing music videos has increased "exponentially" on YouTube, it meant that the 60,000 songwriters and others it represented were being paid much less per viewing under the old licence fee. He said that this was the reason why PRS was seeking a large rise in the license fee. He said whether this would be a lump sum or on a per-play basis was part of the negotiation. "As more users have gone to YouTube, our members are being paid less for their music. The music does have an intrinsic value and this has to be recognised," he said. He accused Google of staging a publicity stunt with today's announcement. "Negotiations had been continuing since the start of the year when the licence agreement ran out. I regret that that has been diverted by playing this out in public," he said. He pointed out that previously the PRS had been flexible with YouTube and had agreed a retrospective licence with the company for the first 18 months of its operation when it did not have any sort of licence in place. Services such as Pandora.com, MySpace UK and Imeem have also had issues securing licence deals in the UK in the last 12 months. Google, which bought YouTube for $1.65 billion in 2006, has been seeking ways to improve revenue from its hugely popular site.