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.

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

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49 Comments
www.eZee.se (profile) says:

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?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Here, have at it, sorry it’s a PDF:

http://www.prsformusic.com/creators/news/research/Documents/Will%20Page%20and%20Chris%20Carey%20%282009%29%20Adding%20Up%20The%20Music%20Industry%20for%202008.pdf

Linked from:

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20090723/0351345633.shtml

Live and record 2,701 (million) pounds. Licensing 926 (million) pounds. Total: 3,627 (million) pounds. So by their own numbers, 25%. Not 33%, but still a significant number. If the trend of growth does continue, licensing will soon be 1/3 of the business.

Shut down licensing tomorrow, and a billion pounds disappears out of the music industry in the UK.

Sorry to cloud a big emotional rant with facts, but hey…

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: 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?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Almost Anonymous (profile) says:

Re: 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!)

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Derek says:

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.

Andrew (profile) says:

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.

Yeah right says:

@ 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!

Yeah right says:

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!

Daemon_ZOGG (profile) says:

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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

“}:>”

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

Anonymous Coward says:

“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.

jdub (profile) says:

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.

Marc (profile) says:

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.

David Winters says:

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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