Monday, October 08, 2007

English as daft as Americans

I thought we Americans were totally asinine when it comes to sharing music. I was wrong. As I was checking the BBC News Online, I came across not one, but two stories about the Performing Rights Society (PRS) and its war on listening to music in public, music that hasn't been properly paid for.

The first story is about it's £200,000 damages claim in the Court of Session in Edinburgh against Kwik-Fit, a local car repair chain. What is Kwik-Fit guilty of? Its employees are guilty of playing their personal radios while on the job, loud enough that customers can hear the music. We're not talking about streaming illegal MP3s across the web. We're talking about turning on a radio loud enough to hear. Complete with the Scottish equivalent of DJs, ads, and other unique Scottish social elements (I wonder if Sir Sean does commercial voice-overs?)

The second story is about the PRS going after much smaller game. Bedlam Scooters on the Elms Industrial Estate in Bedford is being dinged £85 so they can play their radio in their shop while they work. The owner thought it was a joke at first until they got "letter and leaflet delivered" to them. Rather than pay the protection sum, they elected to turn the radio off.

What bothers me about both stories is it represents what we Yanks refer to as double taxation. I make the very basic assumption that English commercial radio is the same as American commercial radio. If you listen to music on commercial radio you have to put up with all the ads and other crap that the station owners lard into the music. I don't know what it's like over in England, but here in the States it's pure unadulterated crap. Commercial radio is, without exception, long stretches of advertising punctuated with short snatches of music. Pardon me, I said all of them. The one notable exception is National Public Radio, and while it's ad free, it does have its annual beg-a-thons where the local stations beg for public funding.

So here I am, listening to commercial radio with the commercials, from stations that are already paying for music they play from ad revenues they generate, and then the PRS walks up and demands even more money if they can hear your radio in a public place. Or in the immortal words of the PRS:
A Performing Rights Society spokesman said: "Anyone wanting to play music in public needs the permission of the people who wrote every piece of music they intend to play.

"To make this easier, composers and songwriters formed 'collecting societies' to grant these permissions on their behalf.

"From time to time, the society focuses on small segments of potential licensees who may not know about the work of the society.

"Currently, we are writing to motor traders to explain about the work it does and the way composers and songwriters are paid."
What a racket. It's enough to make a guy like Al Capone real proud.


  1. yeah, i read that, as well. pretty crazy, huh?

  2. I shall blush in silent embarrassment


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