Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Turn Down the Music ... or It'll Cost You; Advice the Humble Staff Stereo Could Be a Ticking Time Bomb for Small Businesses That Don't Hold a Licence to Play Music on Their Premises, Warns JEZ DAVISON

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Turn Down the Music ... or It'll Cost You; Advice the Humble Staff Stereo Could Be a Ticking Time Bomb for Small Businesses That Don't Hold a Licence to Play Music on Their Premises, Warns JEZ DAVISON

Article excerpt

Byline: JEZ DAVISON

AMY WINEHOUSE doesn't need any help getting herself into trouble, but she could land your business in court - and up to your neck in fines.

And it's all because the Performing Rights Society is coming down hard on firms who flout the little known Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

Under the Act, companies from barbershops to large scale manufacturers must have a PRS Music Licence to play tunes in public, although this does not extend to staff who listen to music on their iPod at work.

Singing policemen in Lancashire have already found themselves on the wrong side of the law. Their chief is up before the beak charged with breach of copyright for allowing music to be played in police stations across the county.

The Forum for Private Business has called for more clarity from the PRS so firms are not left singing the blues.

Earnings from the annual licence fees, which cost a minimum of pounds 66 depending on the scale of the company and how often it plays music in public, are distributed by the Performing Right Society (PRS) to artists who this year will see a 6-7% increase on the pounds 370m of royalties they saw in 2007. Licences are issued in the name of the company and one licence covers all its premises.

A spokesperson for the PRS said: "Around 95% of our members would collect less than pounds 5,000 per year in royalties. They are small businesses themselves and it's a crucial source of income for them."

The licence is required if the music is performed live or via a CD player, radio, DVD, television or even a karaoke machine. A standard television licence is not sufficient.

Matt Foster, licensing and gaming expert from law firm Mincoffs - which is due to merge with Teesside-based Jacksons in October - said most cases did not result in civil action.

"A polite letter from the PRS is usually sufficient," he said. …

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