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Music Idle

Singer In Grocery Store Ordered To Pay Royalties 645

yog writes "An assistant at a grocery store in Clackmannanshire, Scotland, was ordered by the Performing Right Society (PRS) to obtain a performer's license and to pay royalties because she was informally singing popular songs while stocking groceries. The PRS later backed down and apologized. This after the same store had turned off the radio after a warning from the PRS. We have entered an era where music is no longer an art for all to enjoy, but rather a form of private property that must be regulated and taxed like alcohol. 'Music to the ears' has become 'dollars in the bank'."


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Singer In Grocery Store Ordered To Pay Royalties

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  • by adeydas ( 837049 ) <adeydas@inCOWbox.com minus herbivore> on Thursday October 22, 2009 @01:56AM (#29832211) Homepage Journal
    What's next? Concise Oxford charging for words explained in the dictionary?
    • by davester666 ( 731373 ) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @02:17AM (#29832309) Journal

      No, but whoever publishes it owes songwriters around the world shitloads of royalties for including words from their songs...

    • They do already. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @03:48AM (#29832633)
    • by tinkerton ( 199273 ) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @03:54AM (#29832651)

      and your spell checker gets a module that suggests cheaper words to use in your sentences. And it takes in account the extra tax on words the government doesn't like. You can still write what you want but some things are really costly..

    • by Chrisq ( 894406 ) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @04:08AM (#29832701)
      I was going to say "bollocks to that", but I'd probably have to pay royalties to the Sex Pistols.
  • by rekenner ( 849871 ) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @01:59AM (#29832223) Homepage
    That's what this is.
    The idea that fining someone for singing to themself while they work. The idea that this could be in any way the right course of action.
    There's no other words/term for it.
    • by Mashiki ( 184564 ) <mashiki.gmail@com> on Thursday October 22, 2009 @02:43AM (#29832411) Homepage

      This is an example of media control gone nuts. Didn't someone in jest say about 3 years ago that this would happen, somewhere in the world?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by damburger ( 981828 )
      Indeed. Anyone else reminded of the Prole woman that Winston Smith watches singing out the window in 1984?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Rogerborg ( 306625 )
        Yes, I do. [george-orwell.org] I don't see the relevance to this situation, although I'm sure you'll get plenty of PlusGoods for referencing 1984 anyway.
    • by blahplusplus ( 757119 ) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @05:39AM (#29833105)

      "That's what this is."

      This is a natural outcome of applying the concept of private property to information.

    • by thisnamestoolong ( 1584383 ) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @08:19AM (#29833841)
      Yes. This is completely insane. That is why we all need to stop giving money to these people (I will talk specifically about the RIAA in this post but I am speaking more generally about the big nameless, faceless entertainment cartels worldwide). After I got a nice little letter from the RIAA a few years back, I figured I would heed their warning and stop downloading music illegally (I have no moral objection to such activities as they provably cause no harm, but I don't want to get sued either), but I also decided that they don't need any of my money anymore (I was buying between 2 and 5 CDs EACH WEEK from RIAA musicians before, go figure), and decided that I am going to take my music dollars elsewhere. Not only have I been able to avoid giving money to these Nazis, I have discovered that the music being put out by indie labels is infinitely better! You get music that is created by artists who care about their music, rather than their profit margins. This is the only way we can fight this shit -- take your money elsewhere. Vote with your wallet. Don't even share this shit online for free -- that gives them a scapegoat. Dry their profit margins up and make it clear that they have no one to blame but themselves. That is the only way to stop this insanity.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by cpotoso ( 606303 )
        I have stopped buying cd's about 7 years ago... I also used to buy many cd's a month. But lets be honest, the real reason is that I am getting old :-)
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Pig Hogger ( 10379 )

          I have stopped buying cd's about 7 years ago... I also used to buy many cd's a month. But lets be honest, the real reason is that I am getting old

          Last CD I bought was 10 years ago. Ever since then, I download and copy from the library (it’s all legal here, though).

  • by T Murphy ( 1054674 ) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @02:06AM (#29832257) Journal
    As much as I think this kind of enforcement is ridiculous, before we try to get rid of it we should try to put it to good use: someone needs to get the scientologists to start singing top hits as part of their 'religion'. That would create a (lawyer) fight I would pay to watch.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 22, 2009 @03:38AM (#29832587)
      when you're happy and you know it, xenu hates you.
      when you're happy and you know it, xenu hates you.
      when you're happy and you know it, and you really want to show it, xenu hates you.

      In all fairness, I should probably be forced to pay people royalties to people who hear my lyrics...
  • Hoax (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @02:07AM (#29832271) Homepage
    This has all the marks of a hoax. Even if it's not, still, consider the current media climate in which journalists don't check sources but simply reprint crap that other newspapers cover. Try it yourself...fax in a "press release" to the newspaper and then watch it appear in print the next day, unverified. I used to do that when I worked at a government office, and I was just shocked that nobody ever called my phone number to check. How many hoaxes has the press reported this year, so far?
    • Re:Hoax (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TheTurtlesMoves ( 1442727 ) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @02:57AM (#29832461)
      Everyone knows that news outlets are 95% of time totally correct. The other 5% of the time, its stuff I know about.

      Honestly even smart scientists note just how bad they are at covering anything even remotely technical that they know about. And yet assume every other story in that very paper/web site is 100% correct.
    • Re:Hoax (Score:4, Informative)

      by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @04:31AM (#29832801)

      If you think it's a hoax, you probably don't know the PRS. The PRS pay their royalty collectors on commission. They have no interest at all in whether the target of their attentions are morally or legally required to purchase a license. They want to sell one to them regardless. This is just the latest of many such news stories of some of the ridiculous extremes their operatives have tried to extort money from people.

    • Re:Hoax (Score:5, Insightful)

      by definate ( 876684 ) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @06:03AM (#29833229)

      I doubt this is a hoax. This happens quite a lot in Australia, but it doesn't usually get quite so much publicity, and it usually happens to night clubs, pubs, private halls, radio stations and similar.

      The regulatory body over here which primarially deals with this is called the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) [apra-amcos.com.au], basically if you want to perform a copy righted work, you need to obtain licensing.

      For instance I work for a small organization which uses some of it's land for small private concerts, of a maximum of 20 people, generally playing classical works, though occasionally other stuff. Under Australian law we had to obtain licensing through APRA for us to be able to hold these private events.

      A friend of the family used to work for them and although they believed in what they were doing (They saw it as standing up for the rights of the artists against profiteering companies), they did have stories on how some businesses couldn't/wouldn't pay the licensing fees, so they monitored the events closely and pursed legal action. Though in most cases the businesses just give up. Though they did have stories of how they omnipotently gave the licensing, regardless of the businesses right to pay, for the good of the people. Both of which made me sick.

      Anyhow, I took this person to task on the topic one night and suffice to say we're not family friends with them anymore.

      I think it's for the best.

    • Re:Hoax (Score:5, Informative)

      by zstlaw ( 910185 ) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @07:24AM (#29833557)

      I am a musician. I have had placed I play threatened with legal action because the club hadn't paid ASCAP & BMI to allow them a performing license to allow me to play original music in that venue. And despite me not being represented by BMI I have the "right" to opt in at a later time so they are "entitled" to collect money until I decide to do so. You can opt out of Sound Exchange but BMI and ASCAP are organizations that act on our behalf whether or not we would like.

      The whole situation where all musicians are assumed to opt in and then must jump through hoops to get payments is a joke. As a small musician I am not showing up on the radio charts and since I have been in a dozen bands it would be a pain to collect checks for under a dollar for each group. It is not like the clubs report that I am playing there and that the set is all originals and that the BMI should not collect any fees from them that day. So the associations collect their fees and then figure that some major artist was being played because they base their calculations off of radio play.

      It is also annoying as it makes it impossible to may a truly free college or internet radio station. Even if I only played my own tunes I would have to pay a fee to do so and then register to get it back minus administrative overhead.

      • Re:Hoax (Score:5, Interesting)

        by CowboyBob500 ( 580695 ) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @08:37AM (#29833985) Homepage
        This is so true. I'm also a musician who enjoys writing and performing my own material. I have no real desire to become huge, I just enjoy what I do and hope that I give enjoyment to others. The problem is that the venues for me to play at my level are becoming fewer and fewer. The PRS effectively insists that all venues pay to join their organisation any live music is performed there. I know they deny this on their site, and that technically it is possible for venues to allow music by non-PRS members, but the guilty until proved innocent model makes it almost impossible for them to opt-out of the system.

        The way they work is that if a pub puts on bands and the pub is not a member of the PRS, they have to prove that no cover versions of PRS artists were played. This means that a pub owner effectively has to know every song ever registered with a publishing company in order to police this and legally opt out of the system. They can, and will, be asked to provide set-lists in their defence. So what do they do, they stop putting on live music as its too much hassle. What's even worse is that say a band covers one of my songs, then the PRS will collect royalties on my behalf whether I want them to or not. You cannot opt out as a musician either (so those of you who blame greedy musicians for this situation as well, please think again)

        Not only are the record companies killing recorded music, the PRS and their ilk are killing live music.
  • by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @02:09AM (#29832281)

    This is a logical extension of current lunatic copyright laws: the IP Barons want a cut every time anyone, anywhere, performs a song they claim to 'own'. The next step will be to require everyone to wear brain-scanners so that they can charge us every time we 'play' a song inside our heads from memory.

    The whole concept of Imaginary Property leads directly to this kind of stupidity, because the very idea of being able to 'own' something which has no physical existence is quite simply insane.

  • by Korbeau ( 913903 ) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @02:11AM (#29832283)

    She's an old f'*k that sings, hence disturbing my personal belief of finding my true love while grocery-shopping.

    In the fuits section.

    While testing melons.

    Juicy... melons ... garrrr ...

  • Brainwashing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by El_Muerte_TDS ( 592157 ) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @02:13AM (#29832291) Homepage

    I guess it is time to sue the music industry for putting songs in our head.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Whoa, whoa. You have songs in your head?

      Did you pay the licensing fee for them? Lawyers are on their way to you now.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 22, 2009 @02:17AM (#29832311)

    Everyone here is going to talk about how outrageous it is for a supermarket to be charged for playing the radio, but the fact of the matter is that they use the radio to create a pleasant environment for their customers, which makes it a tool of commerce. Songwriters are the ones who get compensated for this, and rightfully so: people are using the fruits of their labor (music) to help sell merchandise. The supermarket is a business, and licensing the music is part of the cost of doing business. It has been this way for many, many years; we are not entering a new age of PRS thuggery. Without due diligence on this and other fronts, professional songwriters (who are not, by the by, a particularly wealthy lot) would not have an income. And please don't make the claim that songwriters get paid for years for 5 minutes of work, because they write far more songs that get rejected or fail commercially than are successful. It's a job, and not an easy one.

    As for the woman being asked to get a license, yes, that is absurd. Probably the representative of the PRS who made the request was new and overeager to please his or her boss, or was maybe just a douchebag. Who knows. It was a truly boneheaded maneuver.

    Full disclosure: I'm a songwriter and a member of a PRS. The money I make a year on songwriting could maybe buy a nice dinner. Without someone looking out for my interests, I'd make nothing.

    • by Volante3192 ( 953645 ) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @02:31AM (#29832367)

      Everyone here is going to talk about how outrageous it is for a supermarket to be charged for playing the radio, but the fact of the matter is that they use the radio to create a pleasant environment for their customers, which makes it a tool of commerce.

      Sounded to me like they'd use a radio in the back that just happened to be in earshot of the front. This is opposed to the full speaker array across the store that keeps the place from being too quiet.

      That's more akin to being charged a performance licence for your car radio while your windows are rolled down.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Stanislav_J ( 947290 )

        That's more akin to being charged a performance licence for your car radio while your windows are rolled down.

        Now that is a concept I could embrace, if it serves to keep those young idjits with the mega-bass boom boxes on wheels from cruising my neighborhood and disturbing my peace.

        (Insert obligatory "now get off my lawn" meme here...)

    • by arkhan_jg ( 618674 ) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @02:49AM (#29832429)

      The thing is, the songwriters have already been paid - by the radio station. If it's BBC radio, we've already paid for that music out of our annual licence fee, or it's a commercial station with adverts. Every person in that store has the right to listen to that station already as the broadcast fees have already been paid.

      Now that it's suddenly being able to be listened to while on a store premises, it's a 'new' public performance and more money needs to be paid. It's double dipping for the same performance.

      You want to charge stores that play personal CDs through to customers? Fine. But leave my goddamn radio at my desk alone.

    • I've worked in the past as a musician and songwriter, and I was in radio for most of a decade. I am a published author and editor, and currently make my living as a writer.

      And I say this is utter horseshit.

      People do not go to grocery stores to hear Muzak. They go there to buy food.

      The radio stations and music services already pay royalties in any case, and places that play recorded music in-house have already paid for those recordings. And that's where it should end.

      To take your model to its logical conclusion is to suggest that, because I can hear some kid's iPod on the train because he's got it cranked up loud enough to turn his brains into jelly, either he or I should pay royalties, which is preposterous. You may claim otherwise, but this is *exactly* where it leads.

      Next, you'll be telling me I should pay a performance fee whenever I read to my daughter from a copyrighted book.

      Disclaimer: 'Muzak' and 'iPod' are registered trademarks of their respective owners, and they are completely welcome to them.

    • by s-whs ( 959229 ) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @03:00AM (#29832473)

      > Everyone here is going to talk about how outrageous it is for a supermarket
      > to be charged for playing the radio, but the fact of the matter is that they
      > use the radio to create a pleasant environment for their customers, which
      > makes it a tool of commerce.

      Yes, and so is the building itself, the paint to make the walls look nice, and much more.

      Should the builders, paint manufacturers, etc. get 'royalties' because you use their products commercially?

      I don't think so. So "used as a tool of commerce" is just not a valid argument.

      Just as with the building/paint/what's in the building, the radio has already been paid for. Via tax (as in NL) and/or the radio stations which pay to transmit. Everyone can freely listen to the radio privately, so why should anyone have to pay to use it in a store?

    • by kramerd ( 1227006 ) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @03:00AM (#29832475)

      Back in college, I worked in a restaurant where initially we played the radio in the kitchen for employees during slow hours. At some point, we received a warning letter, so we got rid of the radio, which only employees could hear, and replaced it with a speaker system that played throughout the restaurant. We then changed the policy so that only cds brought in by employees could be played over the speakers. As far as I know (havent worked there in 3 years), they still don't pay anything for doing so.

    • by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @03:03AM (#29832485)

      The money I make a year on songwriting could maybe buy a nice dinner. Without someone looking out for my interests, I'd make nothing.

      Let me repeat myself from other posts I've made in the past: the fact that you write stuff down on a piece of paper and send it to somebody does not entitle you to a check. Since this is a tech site, I'll compare this to writing software: just because you wrote some software doesn't mean that you're entitled to receive money. I don't care what the size is of the check is. Software writers are at least ahead of the curve and trying various methods to entice people to pay them directly. What I see from song writers instead is "I wrote some stuff that's used somewhere, pay me forever. And I deserve to be paid enough to not have to do anything else."

      To that I can only say one thing: fuck off. I write a ton of crap. Some of it is good, some of it isn't, but I know it makes a difference. Some of it is specific to the situation and the client, some of it is generic and useful to everyone in the field. I do not expect to get paid in perpetuity for my writing, and I don't expect some third party entity to hunt down documents that kinda look like mine, or people who have something that looks like my document without proof they paid for it.

      That's how it ought to be. You do work, you get paid. Wanna get paid again? Do more work. Which, by the way, is how art used to be compensated. And plenty of awesome work was created through that system - work that is arguably better than about 99.99% of the crap that came out in the last 10 years, when copyright enforcement truly started to get nuts.

    • by Oneiris ( 1206688 ) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @03:44AM (#29832607)
      I'm a musician too (albeit not a professional one), and I think it ludicrous to expect to be paid in perpetuity for one piece of work created. As many others have replied, music on the radio is already licensed and songwriters/producers/artists are already compensated by their various royalty collection bodies.

      If you're not getting enough money from your work, find another job. As a software engineer, I'm not paid every time code I wrote 2 years ago is used. Builders aren't paid every time a building they've worked on is sold or let. The current practice of rewarding artists every time their music is played is unsustainable, and more and more people are becoming aware of this fact.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 22, 2009 @04:08AM (#29832699)

      To people outside the UK, charging you for playing the radio makes no damn sense. After all, the radio station already pays for the music (if it's a standard broadcast) or *you* already pay for the music if it's satellite or CD.

      The only reason people like the OP can rationalize the PRS is because they're looking at it through the lens of a culture in which it's the status quo. You see this all the time - people rationalizing or even praising elements of their particular culture that MAKE NO GODDAMN SENSE. I'm not sure whether it's done out of a sort of misplaced nationalism, a lack of imagination, or something else. But it's the only explanation I can think of for the defense of the indefensible, whether it's the PRS, the American health care system, or any other country's unique psychosis.

      The irony is that for the vast majority of musicians in the UK, the burden the PRS puts on people is vastly disproportionate to the benefit received. Again, take the original poster - would s/he give up that one dinner a year in order to save business owners the incredible hassle of dealing with the PRS? Not to mention the massive amount of money the PRS must spend on enforcement, which reduces the artists' cut. If the PRS moved to a system where royalties for recording sales and broadcast were higher, and eliminated the tax on playing music in public, how much more profitable would they be?

    • No, they don't play the radio to make a pleasant environment for their customers. They play the radio to make spending a day waiting on the general public go by a little quicker and to give them something to listen to while they stock shelves or install muffler systems, or whatever else they're doing.

      It's music being broadcast for all to hear. Why should the supermarket pay royalties and the guy in the car with his windows down not have to? If they're playing MUZAK or a CD, fine, they should be paying fo

  • bastards!! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Tomfrh ( 719891 ) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @02:25AM (#29832339)

    Just for this, I'm gonna download TWICE as many mp3 tonight to show those corporate FAT CATS they can't push around the little guy!

  • by thomasinx ( 643997 ) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @02:30AM (#29832361)
    Yes, she was ordered to pay royalties. However, shortly afterward, the company sent her flowers, and issued a formal apology (ie, they realized they went *way* too far).

    and I quote the article...
    "In a note attached to a large bouquet of flowers they said: "We're very sorry we made a big mistake. We hear you have a lovely singing voice and we wish you good luck." "
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 22, 2009 @02:54AM (#29832451)

      The company didn't realize anything. They were cowed into submission by an understandably outraged public.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 22, 2009 @03:11AM (#29832499)

      They are testing the waters.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ChipMonk ( 711367 )

      We're very sorry we made a big mistake. We hear you have a lovely singing voice and we wish you good luck.

      Which is lawyer-speak for "Our next target will be someone with a lot less public exposure, and much less ability to defend against our accusations in court."

    • by GreatBunzinni ( 642500 ) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @04:38AM (#29832837)
      Was this before or after the public backlash against such a damaging PR fuckup? This is the difference between "they may be, after all, a decent, level-headed group" and "those evil-doers are desperate to minimize the shitstorm they cast their way due to their arrogance and greed".
  • by TeethWhitener ( 1625259 ) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @03:00AM (#29832479)
    ...the estate of John Cage to sue everyone all the time for unlicensed performance of 4'33"
  • by GrpA ( 691294 ) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @04:39AM (#29832845)

    How hard would it be for some enterprising radio station to only play GPL/Free/Whatever-isn't-commercial music that the PRS had no jurisdiction over...

    They would quickly be the ONLY radio station that business could listen to ( freely ) and they could sue the PRS if they damaged their business by telling people they couldn't listen to the radio without a license... Since it wouldn't be true of that station. ( Better still the PRS might start to include advertising in their notices... eg, Can't listen to stations, other than Radio-GPL )

    A captive market and a litigious company doing them free PR work - It doesn't get much better than that...

    I wonder how long the PRS would last before the artists realized they were the real enemy...


    • by uffe_nordholm ( 1187961 ) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @04:49AM (#29832885)
      I fear the PRS would simply start asking for payments from companies who _own_ equipment that _can_ be used to listen to radio stations that fall under the PRS licence rules. Whether or not the equipment actually _is_ used to listen to said radio stations is something the PRS could disregard completely.

      Disclaimer: I live in Sweden, not the UK.

      But we have got something very similar: our version of the BBC has started making a lot of its material accessible via the web. So suddenly everybody who owns a computer and has an internet connection is required to pay the TV-reciever fee....
      • by Jesus_666 ( 702802 ) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @05:43AM (#29833139)
        Likewise in Germany. We get even more fun, though:

        - The GEMA (our ASCAP) requires that members register all songs that might possibly generate income with them. GEMA-registered songs cannot be made available for free.
        - Once a song is registered it stays registered as the GEMA can't unregister it without violating contracts it has with its customers.
        - If you perform your own songs you have to pay a performance fee. If you perform only your own songs and every single artist performing on the venue is listed on the form you get them back, though - minus a service fee.
        - If you do manage to put a song on your website that does constitute a public performance and you do have to pay the fee. Again, you get most of it back.

        That's just some of the fun GEMA disperses. Oh, and they operate on a "guilty until proven innocent" model - any song is assumed to be GEMA-covered until the creator proves it isn't. So if you make and perform CC music you better have a copy of the license with you.

        I agree that songwriters should get compensated for their work but it seems that the associations responsible for that have an unfortunate tendency towards asshattery. Must come with the (arguably valid) business model of charging people for work that already has been done before.
  • by oheso ( 898435 ) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @04:49AM (#29832883)

    A bar owner in Japan was ordered to pay royalties for playing the harmonica for his customers. As far as I know, the decision has stuck.

    http://joi.ito.com/weblog/2006/11/10/elderly-harmoni.html [ito.com]

  • the solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by muckracer ( 1204794 ) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @05:10AM (#29832955)

    The solution to this entire issue is to download, download and download some more. Bittorrent-style, of course. Do not pay a single cent into this system anymore. And then, when your favorite band comes to town go see and support them and buy their bloody T-Shirt. Make your money go where your ears are and cut out the middlemen!

God made the integers; all else is the work of Man. -- Kronecker