EU Says That, No, Rental Car Companies Don't Need To Pay A License To Rent Cars With Radios That Might Play Music

from the copyright-insanity dept

Performance Rights Organizations (PROs), sometimes known as “Collection Societies,” have a long history of demanding licensing for just about every damn thing. That’s why there was just some confusion about whether or not those with musical talents would even be allowed to perform from their balconies while in COVID-19 lockdown. And if you thought that it was crazy that anyone would even worry about things like that, it’s because you haven’t spent years following the crazy demands made by PROs, including demanding a license for a woman in a grocery store singing while stocking the shelves, a public performance license for having the radio on in a horse stable (for the horses), or claiming that your ringtone needs a separate “public performance” license, or saying that hotels that have radios in their rooms should pay a public performance license.

Five years ago, we wrote about another such crazy demand — a PRO in Sweden demanding that rental car companies pay a performance license because their cars had radios, and since “the public” could rent their cards and listen to the radio, that constituted “a communication to the public” that required a separate license. The case has bounced around the courts, and finally up to the Court of Justice for the EU which has now, finally, ruled that merely renting cars does not constitute “communication to the public.”

From the CJEU’s press release:

… the Court of Justice, in its judgment delivered today, held that it is the case of the supply of a radio receiver forming an integral part of a hired motor vehicle, which makes it possible to receive, without any additional intervention by the leasing company, the terrestrial radio broadcasts available in the area in which the vehicle is located. That therefore differs from acts of communication by which service providers intentionally broadcast protected works to their clientele, by distributing a signal by means of receivers that they have installed in their establishment.

Basically, people aren’t renting cars for the purpose of listening to music, and it’s not like the rental car company is creating some special musical offering. They’re just renting cars. Which have radios. Which might play music. If a customer turns it on and tunes into a radio station. And thus, finally, years later, we are assured that renting cars is not “communicating [music] to the public” for which the rental car company must pay extra.

But just the fact that this spent half a decade in court should give you an idea of just how greedy and messed up the copyright world is, with the various PROs/Collection Societies leading the way down the most ridiculous path.

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Comments on “EU Says That, No, Rental Car Companies Don't Need To Pay A License To Rent Cars With Radios That Might Play Music”

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43 Comments
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PaulT (profile) says:

"They’re just renting cars. Which have radios. Which might play music. If a customer turns it on and tunes into a radio station."

…a radio station which has already paid a licence to broadcast to the public.

That should have been the part that got this laughed out of the first court it came to – even if a person did rent a car for the express purpose of listening to the radio, the licence for doing so has already been paid for. There is not separate per-device licence for listening to radio, the broadcaster pays the licences.

But, this is why the industry gets no sympathy. For all their whining about those poor starving artists, they will happily piss away a fortune to try and double and triple dip the customers who have already paid them.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: License to listen to music

"In Germany, every household has to pay for a license to listen to music. Every employer. Every rental car company. Every restaurant."

GEMA is even more of a lunatic than STIM is – which is saying something.

Generally speaking, however, "collection agencies" were always the cheap cousins of mass-extortion copyright trolls, and save for the more expensive suits there business model amounts to the same.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
AC720 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Whoa, the reasons WHY the artists are starving are relevant too. A lot of the artists are stupid and sign away the rights to their songs for cash upfronts from the record labels and publishers. Those big companies end up owning the song and often charge a fee TO the artist if the artist wants to perform their own song at concerts or the like. It gets worse when the labels send them a bill for all the other stuff they do, like manufacturing CDs. Bands sometimes ONLY make money off the T-shirt table at the back of the concert. Everything else goes to somebody else.

At the same time, because many artists don’t actually own their songs, they get no revenue from radio plays or usage in advertising. You sometimes hear about bands upset that their songs got used in political venues. But often the band doesn’t OWN the song any more and has no actual say in it.

And because they often don’t own the song, they get no revenue from streaming plays. Which leads the artists to get on YT and Twitter and complain that nobody is paying them for Spotify or pirate downloads, and they have no money for food.

Yeah. It’s not your song any more. The money collected goes to the record labels and publishers.

There ARE artists who own their own songs. They are a very small minority but a lucky few of them actually do make a ton of money by owning all the things the labels and publishers usually own. Jay-Z is one. Regardless of liking him or his music at all, he is a shrewd businessman who has made a fortune and done exactly what most artists never achieve.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Annonymouse says:

Re: Re: Re:

They demanded and got a fee for each and every format of media storage in Canada.
Yes that includes hard drives and solid state devices including those that only have an industrial use.
Why? Because our courts are chaired by lawyers in robes which we call judges. Putting on a robe doesn’t seem to affect Intelligence or knowledge one whit.

Anonymous Coward says:

typical entertainment industries greed! but then, where does the blame really lie? exactly! with the stupid rulings from US courts over everything to do with copyright and trademark and those in politics who have been and still are so much more concerned with filling their own coffers than ensuring the original laws were sufficient enough and did NOT, under any circumstances, need enhancing, let alone to the ridiculous lengths they are now! life + 70 years is fucking ridiculous and those involved in dreaming this up and implementing it into law should be damn well ashamed!!

Anon says:

Note the Judgement

Note that the judgement says the car rental are not purposefully broadcasting their specific stream – implying this is the bar that must be crossed to charge the license fee. So for example, if the drive-in theatre (remember those?) has a low-power radio station to broadcast to in-car speakers, and that could send licensed music, they must pay. But because the car companies do not originate or repeat a signal themselves, they are exempt. The radio in the dentist’s office – that’s putting out noise under the control of the receptionist for the delight of the waiting customers, therefor a a good argument that it is "broadcasting". Radio in a private area such as work area of a car repair facility, like radio in a rental car, under control of the person(s) in that private area – good argument NOT public performance. Person spontaneously singing in public, unless it’s part of a show and arranged – not a public "performance". Good the EU court has added another guideline to nuance these definitions with.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Note the Judgement

"The radio in the dentist’s office – that’s putting out noise under the control of the receptionist for the delight of the waiting customers, therefor a a good argument that it is "broadcasting"."

It’s really not. The dentist is not using the music as the primary reason for people to go there, and the broadcaster is already paying the broadcast licence.

If you said "bar" rather than "dentist" you might have an argument, but it’s a non-starter in the eyes of anyone sane if people happen to have licenced music in the background of another activity.

Anonymous Coward says:

Another problem with making car rental companies get music licensing is that a car without a radio is no longer a possibility since the radios are now integrated into the car’s system

If you want a third party stereo, or no radio, you have to go to a country where tinkering the car’s software is not illegal.

If I ever have to get a car with such an "integrated" stereo and want my own, I will go to Mexio to get my own stereo. Shops in Mexico are not subject to the DMCA, and neither would I, since I would not be getting any kind of financial gain out of it.

The shops in Mexico could tinker with the car’s software to put a third party stereo in, and the DMCA would not apply to them as the DMCA does not apply in Mexico.

John says:

Can this have an effect on on the German "GEZ" Household Fee?

Here in Germany every household is billed 17,50€ a month to pay for the mere possibility that one can receive public TV and radio broadcasts on the premises. Refusal to pay it has resulted in people going to jail and bank account garnishment. This is of course hugely unpopular. Who actually rents out a flat for the sole purpose of consuming public broadcasting? I hope that this ruling can somehow eventually lead to this practice also being put to a stop.

Froggels says:

To What Extent Does This Ruling apply?

To what extent does this ruling apply? Are car hire companies in the EU still subject to a licence fee for the ability to receive public broadcasting or does this ruling only apply to music? Were these companies paying two separate fees: one for music content and one for pubic broadcasting? In Germany every household and company is required to pay a mandatory fee known as the “Rundfunkbeitrag” (AKA “GEZ”) for the mere possibility being able to consume public broadcasting content. This fee is mandatory even with proof that neither a TV nor radio exists on the premises. This money supposedly goes to the broadcasters.

In addition to the Rundfunkbeitrag, Bars and clubs, however, are also required to make payments to GEMA which supposedly goes to the artists. In the case mentioned in the article it seems that the payments in question are similar to GEMA (music) as opposed to the Rundfunkbeitrag (broadcasting). A few years ago the car hire company, Sixt, unsuccessfully sued in the German courts for having to pay the Rundfunkbeitrag for each of their rental vehicles. I wonder what effect, if any, this new decision could have on the German Rundfunkbeitrag/GEMA scheme?

Could authorities throughout the EU get around this decision by simply redefining the fees as a licence for the ability receive public broadcasting as opposed to just music?

Froggels says:

To What Extent Does This Ruling apply?

To what extent does this ruling apply? Are car hire companies in the EU still subject to a licence fee for the ability to receive public broadcasting or does this ruling only apply to music? Were these companies paying two separate fees: one for music content and one for pubic broadcasting? In Germany every household and company is required to pay a mandatory fee known as the “Rundfunkbeitrag” (AKA “GEZ”) for the mere possibility being able to consume public broadcasting content. This fee is mandatory even with proof that neither a TV nor radio exists on the premises. This money supposedly goes to the broadcasters.

In addition to the Rundfunkbeitrag, Bars and clubs, however, are also required to make payments to GEMA which supposedly goes to the artists. In the case mentioned in the article it seems that the payments in question are similar to GEMA (music) as opposed to the Rundfunkbeitrag (broadcasting). A few years ago the car hire company, Sixt, unsuccessfully sued in the German courts for having to pay the Rundfunkbeitrag for each of their rental vehicles. I wonder what effect, if any, this new decision could have on the German Rundfunkbeitrag/GEMA scheme?

Could authorities throughout the EU get around this decision by simply redefining the fees as a licence for the ability receive public broadcasting as opposed to just music?

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