PRS's Latest Trick: Demanding Money From Shop Assistant Who Was Singing At Work

from the performance-fees dept

Sometimes, these collection societies write the jokes themselves, it seems. PRS, the music collection society in the UK, famous for going way over the line in demanding money from people (remember the time it demanded a woman pay up for playing music for her horses? Or how it calls small businesses and if they hear any music in the background, demand payment?), has done it again. It threatened a shop assistant for singing out loud (public performance!) while stacking the grocery shelves, demanding she pay £1,000 for the privilege. Of course, why was she singing? Because PRS had already threatened the owner for having a radio -- so he got rid of the radio.

Of course, as with the horse debacle, once PRS realized the PR nightmare it had created for itself, it apologized (and sent some flowers). But, that hardly makes the situation better. Why is PRS demanding such things in the first place? Given the long trail of similar examples, this isn't just some random one-off accident. It's basically how PRS operates. And that's because it's structured its business so that its "investigators" aren't really "investigators" at all, but sales people. They have every incentive to get as many companies to pay up as possible, no matter if there's any real performance at issue.

On top of that, the very fact that PRS forced this shopowner to take away his radio should show how backwards and braindead PRS's strategy is. The radio in the shop isn't a "public performance." It's not the reason people go to the shop. But it did help promote the musicians PRS supposedly represents. Not any more. Musicians in the UK should be furious at PRS for making it more difficult to get their music heard, let alone for threatening someone for singing while stocking the shelves.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    Chris Rhodes (profile), Oct 21st, 2009 @ 12:14pm

    Hard to Believe

    This is something you would expect to be featured on The Onion.

    I'm not certain if I should be depressed that this is what society has been reduced to, or scared because I know we haven't hit rock bottom yet.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 12:15pm

    Question is, is being a shop assistant just her day job?

     

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    www.eZee.se (profile), Oct 21st, 2009 @ 12:18pm

    Why NOT me?

    Sometimes I really curse my luck that sh!t like this does not happen to me, i would really like to let off some steam and would give the person who tells me i gotta pay to hum a few tunes some very unmusical 'choicey' words.

    Is it just me or are others too getting the impression this is a dying industries last dying effort to grab how ever much they can before they become obsolete?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 12:23pm

    So wait? They sued her, took her to court and won and they still had to apologize? I'm so confused.

    They took her to court, right? Isn't that one of the recording industry's steps?

    PR nightmare? They're worried about a PR nightmare now? Who are these people?!?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 12:30pm

    Well, clearly this store is just supporting TERRORISM!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 12:31pm

    How dare that woman sing that song made by those people who were influenced by some other people who were in turn probably influenced by others and they probably sung some songs too!

    OUTRAGED!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 12:36pm

    But wait. Mike, you were all excited that the UK music industry is growing, but most of that growth is in licensing... which is what PRE does. So which is it? Are they a good part of the growth, or should 33% of the UK busness get trashed?

     

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      Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 21st, 2009 @ 12:51pm

      Re:

      Any chance I can take a peek at whatever you're basing 33% of the economy comes from PRS or licensing?

      Not saying you're wrong, just haven't seen it. Me likee evidence...

       

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      PaulT (profile), Oct 21st, 2009 @ 12:54pm

      Re:

      It's a good thing that the music industry is growing. It's fine that some of this growth comes from licensing. I don't know if the 33% figure that you suggest is correct, but new uses for music (ringtones sold through 3rd parties, licensing to videogames, TV and other media, licensing to services such as Spotify, etc.) justify new licensing opportunities.

      It's bad that organisations like this are trying to include things that should be considered fair use (singing part of a some to yourself, playing records you own within earshot of animals) as part of a cash grab. It's bad that people are being hit with payment demands for things that should not be charged for.

      Clear enough for you?

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 2:06pm

        Re: Re:

        "It's bad that organisations like this are trying to include things that should be considered fair use (singing part of a some to yourself, playing records you own within earshot of animals) as part of a cash grab."

        It just shows the mentality of intellectual property maximists. Intellectual property was never and is not about advancing society, it's about hindering innovation and restricting our actions in ways they should not be restricted. It's about advancing tyranny under the pretext of advancing society. It's all lies.

        The only thing intellectual property maximists are mad about is that these organizations get exposed for their nonsense and it reveals the true nature and motives of intellectual property maximists. It reveals the true use of intellectual property, it was never and is not used to help humanity but only to allow a hand full of people to exploit it. The mainstream media has long censored the true effects that intellectual property has on society but now we have managed to circumvent the media and this is what truly agonizes intellectual property maximists.

        The alleged "legitimate" uses of intellectual property really aren't all that much more legitimate than the abuse that these people use it for. It's all done under the same mentality for the same purpose and all has the same effect, to exploit society for the benefit of a hand full of people.

        I'm not saying intellectual property per se is bad but the way it's currently being used, the current laws in place, are very bad.

         

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          Almost Anonymous (profile), Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 7:54am

          Re: Re: Re:

          """
          It just shows the mentality of intellectual property maximists. Intellectual property was never and is not about advancing society, it's about hindering innovation and restricting our actions in ways they should not be restricted. It's about advancing tyranny under the pretext of advancing society. It's all lies.
          """

          You are putting way too much emotion into this and overthinking way too far. "They" are just trying to create a funnel into which "they" hope that people will have to drop more cash. Do not attribute to evil that which can be more easily attributable to greed (unless you consider greed = evil, in which case attribute away!)

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Oct 25th, 2009 @ 9:10pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Correction/Do not attribute to evil that which can be more easily attributable to greed/Do not attribute to evil that which can be more easily attributable to selfishness.

            See the difference. Selfishness != greed.

             

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      Designerfx (profile), Oct 21st, 2009 @ 1:01pm

      Re:

      I've never seen a single study showing that licensing is where the music industry growth is.

       

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      lordmorgul, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 8:50pm

      Re:

      Extortion is not licensing. Learn the difference then we can have an intelligent conversation.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 12:41pm

    Moral of the story: sing Spanish, Italian, Russian, etc. songs that are not copyrighted in the US/UK/...

     

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    TDR, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 12:42pm

    PRS needs to be shut down. Forcibly. And forced to pay back everyone they sued the original amount they sued them for. Come to think of it, the same should happen to the RIAA.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 12:45pm

    Im still trying to figure out how shifting noise from the EM spectrum to the sound spectrum constitutes a public performance to whom ever holds the converter.

    The radio station is doing a performance sure but its been found out that a wire fence scratching on a 2nd wire can sometimes get radio stations, Heck, I Love Lucy had someone getting radio stations on there braces.

    Lets not forget, people with hearing aids are doing the same thing, Some people cant hear outside a vary small range, there are hearing aids that take noises outside that range and push them into the range he/she can hear. Can we sue them for public performance too? By the current logic yes we can.

     

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    Derek, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 1:06pm

    Music itself may be growing, but the "industry" around it is dying. By its own hand. And not soon enough.

    The "industry" was doomed the moment the focus shifted from music to marketing. Like so many other "industries" whose primary goal became ever-increasing profit instead of providing a useful or enjoyable product or service, the music industry is as dead as a flapping, headless chicken.

    Talented musicians and composers and engineers will always be in demand, but good riddance to the parasitic "industry" of executives, lawyers, and lobbyists.

     

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    Brian, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 1:06pm

    Hearing aid company's

    OMG, hearing aid company's are supporting raporism. They must be sue'd out of existence, at once.

     

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    Vic, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 1:10pm

    A little confused here.

    But just a little... My line of thought is: it is the shop worker who was performing, correct? So actually it is PRS should have been taken to court. THEY owe HER performing fees, right. They are supposedly work for and support performers!

     

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    Andrew (profile), Oct 21st, 2009 @ 1:26pm

    Has anyone looked at the "fees"?

    I actually surfed PRS's website (wow, talk about doublespeak!), and found what the fees are for a small shop to have a radio playing.

    It can easily add up to $1000-2000 per year for even a moderate sized shop. Just so they can have a radio playing a little music.

    And their FAQ on "Are you using commercial music" starts off with: "Despite what you might think, it is likely that you ARE using commercial music."

    It's just amazing how completely blindered these people are.

     

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    Jake, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 1:29pm

    I can only assume this was some PRS employee trying to make a point about just how ridiculous their behaviour is getting; nobody could be this stupid, surely?

     

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    PRS, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 1:36pm

    Your clear violation

    If I shuffle the letters around in your article I can get the lyrics to a song under our control/protection. Please remit the sum of $1000 for your clear violation for face legal action that will cost you at least $3000 to $5000 to defend yourself so it is cheaper to pay up.

     

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    Yeah right, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 1:44pm

    @ Vic

    Yes, interesting that. Apparently, Gareth Kelly, the PRS goon who dealt with the case before, was dead wrong.

    A spokesman for PRS said, "PRS for Music would like to categorically state that a shop owner wishing to sing to their customers would not require a music licence. The advice given to Sandra Burt in this incidence was wrong and we would like to unreservedly apologise for the confusion caused."

    Confusion remains, as Sandra Burt is a shop assistant, not the owner. And what if she has another assistant accompany her on the guitar? Or if this dear lady suddenly decided to use a backing track? What about singing waiters?

    Come on, PRS. We need guidance!

     

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    Yeah right, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 1:56pm

    The shop isn't off the hook yet. They might have gotten rid of the radio but the PRS faq clearly states:

    "Music users can choose to stop using copyright music on their premises and will not require a copyright licence once performances have ceased. However, they may be required to pay a licence fee to cover any copyright music use to that date."

    PRS have been licensing music in the workplace since 1914, so if that shop has been there for a while, ka-ching!

     

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    Daemon_ZOGG (profile), Oct 21st, 2009 @ 1:56pm

    PRS, RIAA and others...

    These are all MAFIA Organizations. Operated by, of course, MAFIA THUGS. They are all openly guilty of two distinct crimes which are Extortion and Racketeering. As well as manipulating and abusing the justice system. They do not, in any way, represent music artists. They represent GREED for profit. They only want your money. They don't care if you like the song or not. They don't care about YOU, the fan, the paying customer.
    It's tempting to stand outside of these Mafia organizations, bend over, and fart the musical notes of my favorite songs!
    I'd love to hear them describe this so called live performance to a court. ;)

    "}:>"

    ..Keep singing those songs, and playing those radios. LOUD!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 1:57pm

    "Of course, as with the horse debacle, once PRS realized the PR nightmare it had created for itself, it apologized (and sent some flowers)."

    and we can all thank the mainstream media for adequately covering the issue and broadcasting it to everyone so that everyone knows about it :)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 2:12pm

    "Musicians in the UK should be furious at PRS for making it more difficult to get their music heard, let alone for threatening someone for singing while stocking the shelves."

    But as long as the (corrupt) mainstream media censors it and no one knows about it then there is absolutely nothing wrong with exploiting the public (that's how these people think). These people still expect their atrocities to be censored from mainstream media, they still operate under the assumption that they can get away with all sorts of atrocities and no one would know about it because the mainstream media will simply censor and ignore the issue. The mainstream media has long censored important news like this and so they've gotten used to it. Old habits die hard. They still haven't gotten used to the Internet, but mark my words, if they will work very hard to get this sort of thing censored from the Internet as well.

     

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    Yeah right, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 2:20pm

    PBS's distribution of income is a stark reminder of where the money goes: 90% of their writer/publisher members get less than 5.000 pounds a year, 60% get even less than 250 pounds for their trouble. Only 4.7% walk away with more than 20.000 pounds a year.

     

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    jdub (profile), Oct 21st, 2009 @ 2:30pm

    I'm a little confused on the whole radio thing. If the radio is playing of the public airwaves, aren't the radio stations already paying performance fees/licensing for the songs they are broadcasting.

    I can see stores/restaurants and the like paying those fees, if they are broadcasting on private airwaves/satellite to feed into there stores for there customers, but on a public air wave, any one and their dog with a radio can tune and listen. Does that mean that we can only listen to be ourselves in a closed room, or only with earphones on.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 8:56pm

      Re:

      If you are conducting business of any type within hearing distance of a public radio station you are tuning into... yeah you have to pay. Does that make any logical sense? No, it does not, but what else is new here... none of the music industry copyright and licensing argument makes any sense.

       

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    Lucretious, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 4:16pm

    I'm looking over the comments to see if this is a joke......someone tell me this is a joke.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 4:36pm

      Re:

      The joke will be on all of you when singing outloud becomes illegal as soon as we bribe, I mean, lobby the governments of the world to force the lot of you to our profitable will.

      Everyone pays eventually!

       

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    thomas, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 4:27pm

    Not for artists

    PRS and the **AA have nothing to do with getting money for artists; they are to collect money to pay their executives large bonuses, provide them with drugs and hookers, and so on. Providing money to artists is very far down on their list of priorities. The very idea, that artists should get money that PRS or the **AA collect! (sarcasm)

     

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    net625, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 4:27pm

    The voices...

    If voices in my head are singing to me would PRS pay for services to make them go away? Or would they just shoot me and throw me in a ditch?

     

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    Marc, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 6:33pm

    Am I that loopy from lack of sleep?

    This just does not make any sense, is it April's Fools?

    I feel robbed. For many years I propagated and grew plants and sold them. People have been able to enjoy the plants and their blooms for over 30 years, yet I got only paid once!

    Should I not get money for each year the plant is enjoyed by the owners and the public that drive by and see these plants?

    Where did I mess up and not somehow Patented that, Licensed the plants or ? I am losing huge amounts of money every year to all that are ripping me off.

    All that hard and really, really, physical work I invested in these plants, sweating over them from the time they were babies till they were old enough to give to others to grow and enjoy. I worked much harder than these artists ever did to produce their commodity.

    Yeah, their music, books, videos, dvds, songs, etc are nothing more than commodities. Since the RIAA, MPAA and all the others doing sh*at stuff, I have curtailed going to crap movies, crap concerts, buying crap music and crap movie dvd's. I can still find enjoyment listening and watching crap I bought years ago and watching crap on the tv. Why do I need something "NEW".

    I know I am nothing but a small pebble thrown into the big ocean that does not even make an impression, but if enough small pebbles were thrown in, who knows what impression that could be made. Or maybe it has already started, lets take a look at some statistics:

    Lets look at last weeks Box Office in the US: Top 10 Movie gross - only $125 million, @ $12.50 per ticket only 10 million people saw the Top 10 movies. out of 307 million people in the US. That is only 3.2499 % of the population. How many will go back for a second bite?

    [According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the resident population of the United States, projected to 10/22/09 at 01:18 GMT (EST+5) is 307,752,570]

    So lets look for the folks here at techdirt to keep reporting these follies and wait for these old dinosaurs to fall to the wayside as they look for the most absurd way to extract value and the last drop of blood from the masses and the poor workers. Meanwhile missing out on opportunities.

    I think I am going to go to the store and start singing to myself. Wait that will only get me into the looney bin.

    Nawwww I am going to think how I can profit on plants I sold 30 years ago and build a revenue stream.

     

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    Secret Secret, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 8:05pm

    oooooh

    shhhhhhhhhhh... dont tell no body, but when i drive my car, i turn the music up really loud, and roll down the windows, and scream with the song, and drive through densly populated cities.

    and they sing with me!

     

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    Trav, Mar 20th, 2010 @ 2:51am

    GREAT!

    That means I can go copyright a slogan that has not been taken by any other company yet.
    And go around suing everyone I hear saying it. Hmmm maybe like "Whats up?".
    Wonder if you can have a one word slogan like "taxi" hmm.

     

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    David Winters, Dec 19th, 2013 @ 10:03am

    Music Licenses

    When the printing press technology was born, the book industry went crazy and burned people at the stake for printing books without a license. Didn't work.
    Now the recording industry is in the same fix. But their extortion won't work either. See The Pirate's Guide to Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights for the big picture.

     

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