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Performing Right Society - demanding money from small companies now

MacOS10
Grafter
Posts: 172
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Registered: 30-07-2007

Performing Right Society - demanding money from small companies now

Just a heads up, really...
OK, so I work for a small design/advertising company with staff of 6 full time and 3 part time people. Today, we received a phone call from the Performing Rights Society (Google them) explaining that if we have a radio on in the office we have to pay them for a licence. My boss took the call, and foolishly said that we do have a radio, so after they said that he'd have to pay them £300+ for the year's licence (maybe more, apparently it depends on staff levels, working hours and number of working days in the year). Anyway, the upshot of it all is the radio has now been taken out of the office.
They also said that they're perfectly entitled to charge us for up to 6 previous years' use by law - that would be £1800+ in back payment. I mean, what the hell!!!? Luckily my boss said that we'd only had the radio for a year (a white lie?), so we only have to pay £300 for last year. I suppose we could all club together for future years' use, but with only 6 full time staff that's £50 each so I guess that's out of the question really.
Is this even legitimate, calling companies up and demanding money for just listening to the radio in a private office space, or are they just using bully-boy tactics, scaring people into buying licences that they don't really require? I had heard of this before, but kind of assumed that it was for larger companies/enterprises or for businesses related to the entertainment sector, such as pubs, clubs, shops etc. We're a small company, already struggling to survive in this financial climate. Is this really the right time to strike businesses that are finding it hard already? From what I've read on t'Internet, they're currently targeting companies, especially in the North West of England - but probably other areas too.
I'm already missing music! God, it's awful without the radio on - like a  bleedin library!! We aren't allowed to wear iPods either, as we need to hear and answer the phones - we only have a part time receptionist. Jeez, this b****y country just gets more like a dictatorship every day. I'm proper annoyed by this!
What's everyone's view on this, would you cough up or would the radio have to go? Are you even aware that if more than one employee listens to music in your company, you need an entertainment licence from the Performing rights Society?
38 REPLIES
Community Veteran
Posts: 1,850
Registered: 11-08-2007

Re: Performing Right Society - demanding money from small companies now

challenge this as illegal and refuse to pay back fees you knew nothing about.  the lawyers win all the way down the line when idiots come up with this sort of tripe as an easy way to con money out of people.
is it law?  i doubt it.
David_W
Rising Star
Posts: 2,293
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Registered: 19-07-2007

Re: Performing Right Society - demanding money from small companies now

It's horrible and unfortunate but you do need a licence to listen to a radio (and TV) in the workplace, however, you can get around this with royalty free music.
The PRS collects royalties, so if you play music which is royalty free then you are naturally exempt from paying the PRS (and you could I suppose let the PRS know that *this* is the music you have been playing for a year........). 
VileReynard
Seasoned Pro
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Registered: 01-09-2007

Re: Performing Right Society - demanding money from small companies now

If it was internet radio - broadcasting from Uzbekistan or somewhere, would you need a licence? Grin

David_W
Rising Star
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Registered: 19-07-2007

Re: Performing Right Society - demanding money from small companies now

Hrm, probably a licence from them!  I think you need to be able to prove to the PRS that you are playing music that doesn't have any royalties to pay, so a CD of err royalty free music.  Could probably use classical music like Beethoven or Mozart, or stuff that is "public domain".
Moderator
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Re: Performing Right Society - demanding money from small companies now

I always was under the impression that a licence was required only if the radio could be heard by the public.

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Simon_M
Grafter
Posts: 684
Registered: 05-04-2007

Re: Performing Right Society - demanding money from small companies now

Employees count as the public for the purposes of this legislation.
Yes, it's legal & you do require a license.
Quote
I'm already missing music! God, it's awful without the radio on - like a  bleedin library!!

You've put your finger on it there, really. You have been enjoying the work done by a bunch of professional musicians. They quite fancy the idea of being paid for entertaining you, just as they would be if they turned up & played live. Naturally, they don't expect to get quite as much as for a live performance.
The money PRS collect is re-distributed to the performers. Every radio station submits a list of the music it plays to PRS & they then distribute the money they collect to the artists according to how often their music is played. That's a slight over simplification, but you get the idea.
The same thing happens at a live concert. About 3% of the gate is paid to PRS. The band have to submit a set list, saying what they played & who composed/arranged it. If the band play their own material, then in addition to the concert fee, PRS pays out a royalty to them. If they play covers of music that is still in copyright, then PPS credit the account of the composer and/or arranger.
Like all these things, it's a case of where do you draw the line. PRS are in danger of taking this too far, but they would argue that the law places them under an obligation to do this. In a similar manner, the minimum fee they demand of live venues is in danger of killing off small room live performances.
Looked at the other way, if you are a composer, this is how you get paid for the work that you do.
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Re: Performing Right Society - demanding money from small companies now

But wait a minute...
Hasn't the radio station already paid a licence fee to air the music?
If so, then PRS are getting two payments for, effectively, one play. That can't be right.

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Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear - Mark Twain
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Re: Performing Right Society - demanding money from small companies now

Some random thoughts on it here http://www.radiojackie.com/stuff/listeningatwork.html
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Community Veteran
Posts: 1,886
Registered: 05-04-2007

Re: Performing Right Society - demanding money from small companies now

The situation has been exactly the same for the local constabulary - all broadcast radios have been removed from all offices, because of what PRS has said. I also know of another person who ran a cafe, and she had them [PRS] turn up and demand she either turn off the radio or pay ridiculous amounts in back fees
I remember the days of crown immunity whereby any service that came under the crown didn't need tv licences and paying PRS fees, understandably, that crown immunity was taken away some time ago.
I submit that yes, those people who have written and performed music for our enjoyment should be paid for their music, however, the way that PRS are carrying out their activities is bordering on the ridiculous. If PRS are being paid by the broadcasters for the rights to play the music, then I agree, there shouldn't be any chance to have a second bite of the cherry.
Also, as far as I'm concerned, a public place is deemed as a place to which the public have access by either payment, permission either express or implied, for example a shop with a back room and a serving counter - permission is implied for people to enter in order to buy from the shop, however, as they pass that demarkation line of the counter or try to enter the back room which is for staff only, they are trespassing as public do not have any permission to be in that part of the shop..
Lurker
Grafter
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Registered: 23-10-2008

Re: Performing Right Society - demanding money from small companies now

The stupid thing in all this is that if each person had their own personal radio, and listened via headphones, there would be no need for a license.
But because you use a speaker to share the broadcast instead of headphones privately, you have to pay for a license.
Its not sensible - but its the law...
MacOS10
Grafter
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Registered: 30-07-2007

Re: Performing Right Society - demanding money from small companies now

I don't download or copy music illegally, all my music is bought from a high street shop or ordered online. Thing is, though, I often buy an album because I like a particular song I've heard on the radio. Now the radio's gone, I probably won't be buying as much new music, purely because I'm not as aware of it, and I'm sure I won't be alone in this.
Also, if I understand the way the PRS get their money from radio stations, the amount they get is based on the station's audience figures and advertising revenue - so the less people who are listening to a particular radio station (also leading to less advertising revenue), the less they'll have to pay the PRS, yes? If that's the case, then surely the PRS are shooting themselves in the foot here - and the music industry as a whole will lose out on more sales too, as people might not hear that new up-and-coming band's track on the radio and therefore won't necessarily be aware of their album.
Maybe the PRS have worked out they can earn more money by going after smaller companies, rather than relying on income from the radio stations and pubs, clubs, shops etc?
I think we're all aware of the requirement for public-facing companies, such as high street shops, bars, clubs etc. But I think what has changed recently is how they're now targeting small companies with 5 or 6 staff, private offices, even people who work from home (I'm not kidding!). I'm not saying what they're doing is against the law, because obviously it isn't otherwise they wouldn't be doing it. I do think, though, if this is now they're chosen strategy, they should be doing an advertising or awareness campaign to make this more common knowledge - i.e. "PAY UP, OR TURN OFF" (hmm, might copyright that, and see how they'll like it!).
Lurker
Grafter
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Registered: 23-10-2008

Re: Performing Right Society - demanding money from small companies now

Its not such a new thing - I'm sure we have discussed it before on Community, and I even suspect a memory of a similar discussion on the Plusnet forum before we had this site.
Community Veteran
Posts: 3,486
Registered: 02-10-2008

Re: Performing Right Society - demanding money from small companies now

What about all the lorries, vans  and cars with broadcast radio receivers  with people working in them - are the PRS claiing for them too.
Buses / coaches
If the radio station has paid them why should they get a second bit at the cherry ?
Community Veteran
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Re: Performing Right Society - demanding money from small companies now

I used to run a small restaurant, and we had "piped" music on the speaker system, for background, you know the stuff, grungy and not at all "up to date". we had to "rent " the tapes of this music from the PRS, and had to pay a licence fee to them to use it.... we could not have the radio on, even in the kitchen, because it was possible for the public to hear it "escaping " from the kitchen I suppose...
On a similar theme to the OP.... I remember a story on the local tv, of a one man band (no pun intended) garage mechanic, who had a ghetto blaster playing while he worked on customers cars... He only had a garage big enough for one car at a time, and yet he was stung by the PRS for £3,000 or threatened with court action if he did not pay up.... can`t remember what the final result was, but just goes to show, another "private police force" for us to contend with.  Huh