Car repair chain sued for playing radio

James Glover says:
Kwik-Fit, a British chain of car-repair garages, has been taken to court by the Performing Rights Society for "public performances" of music played on staff radios.
The PRS claimed that Kwik-Fit mechanics routinely use personal radios while working at service centres across the UK and that music, protected by copyright, could be heard by colleagues and customers.

It is not entirely clear is the term radio is used to refer to broadcast radio stations or to CDs/Tapes payed on audio equipment. Either way this seems a ridiculous abuse of public performance licenses.



  1. The Performing Rights Society is taking a valuable step to prevent noise pollution. Soon, silence will reign and no-one will be exposed to music.

    There’s a flaw in this plan somewhere…

  2. This rubbish went on here in Australia too – hairdressing salons were being asked to cough up for having the radio on while they worked. Such crap – the only way around it would be to force everyone to wear their own personal radio with headset, and that’s not exactly practical (or safe).
    The whole thing is pure greed. They’ve already been paid by the radio stations (or vice versa, depending on the song) to play the music to as many listeners as the station can get, so they’re double dipping.

  3. Bizarre. I’m not even sure how the PRS can take themselves seriously after thinking this shite up.

  4. This nonsense is common in the USofA. BMI and ASCAP regularly send nasty letters to businesses that have radios/music playing–Pay several hundred dollars per year for a license, or face many many thousands of dollars in fines.

  5. That’s as ridiculous as the RIAA suing little girls, college students and 80-year old grannies for copyright infringement.

  6. this has happened on several occasions already in the UK, and such actions are typically succesful.

  7. In Portland, OR someone was calling coffee-shops where singer-songwriters play and insisting that they pay something like $5000 a year in case any of their performers played a cover.

  8. I’ve never heard of such a thing – that’s especially ludicrous because the artists are *already* getting paid from the radio pay. Ridiculous!

  9. Actually, it works the same here in the goood ol’ US of A. When I was working the graveyard shift @ Kinko’s in Central Florida (about 12 years ago), management made us remove ALL radios/boomboxes/what-have-you due to copyright issues. The ONLY music we were allowed to have was the satellite Muzak (which you couldn’t hear whilst working due to lack of speakers behind the counter. Not to mention machine noise). But as a result, we got to stick “ASCAP approved!” stickers in the front window. I also used to drink a lot back then…

  10. It goes without saying that this is utter BS… but assuming the PRS do have some kind of legal leg to stand on (not considering morals and basic human decency), doesn’t that have pretty serious implications for all the electronics stores that have radios and tvs plugged in? And what about the many thousands of pubs in the UK that leave the telly on – is that not technically a public performance of a copyrighted work? If carried to it’s extreme, wouldn’t that criminalize huge swaths of the economy, and millions of ordinary people?

    Oh, wait. I forgot. That’s the modus operandi for copyright thugs.

  11. Jeesh, what’s next. It seems as if there’s no end in sight for the extant of Recording Industry shittery.

    What’s next, are they gonna fine my dorm because some asses like to play loud thumping hip-pop that can be heard several floors away?

    Are they gonna fine anyone who hears music coming out of a radio because it might be considered “illegal music sharing”?

  12. JD sez:

    “This nonsense is common in the USofA. BMI and ASCAP regularly send nasty letters to businesses that have radios/music playing–Pay several hundred dollars per year for a license, or face many many thousands of dollars in fines.”

    Back when I worked for the Texas AG’s office in the late 80’s, the MafRIAA tried to pull this scam on businesses here in Texas, sending thousands of very small businesses – usually locally owned mom’n’pop shops like cafes, convenience stores, dress shops, nail parlors, etc – and the division of the AGs office that handled such issues basically told the MafRIAA that if the business was an entertainment venue – read: night club, dance hall, gentlemen’s club – that dealt with music and entertainment but was not a retail outlet and/or a full-fledged restaurant that wasn’t primarily a bar, then their threats and demands held about as much water as they do now – as much as a sieve.

    Bunnyman212 sez:

    “The ONLY music we were allowed to have was the satellite Muzak (which you couldn’t hear whilst working due to lack of speakers behind the counter. Not to mention machine noise). But as a result, we got to stick “ASCAP approved!” stickers in the front window. I also used to drink a lot back then…”

    …And having worked for Muzak almost 30 years ago, what brought that on was that the local Muzak franchise most likely sent out letters to local businesses and/or corporate HQ’s using scare tactics to force businesses to use their “elevator music” services that most normal people wouldn’t use unless forced to. The franchise here in CenTex tried that about 10 years after I left, which would have been right about the time the AGs office told the MafRIAA what legs they didn’t have the ability to stand on. I’ve strongly suspected they may have had something to do with that particular debacle, but since most of my contacts at Muzak were, by then, either long retired, dead or moved on to other things, I never did find out for certain.

    Bottom Line: If you’re running a small business and you get one of these bogus threats, a) toss the C&D in the trash, b) ask your neigbors/competitors if they got the same thing, and c) advise them to do the same thing but keep each other appraised of any further C&D’s. They can’t sue everyone, so a united front will make them back down quicker than being met at the door and introducing the MafRIAA goons to your friends Smith and Wesson.

  13. Last time around it was hair dressers. I guess they got “car repair garages” on the most recent spin of their random victim generator.

  14. Back in the Cold War era, the moniker “Radio Free Europe” conjured up visions of the poor souls behind the Iron Curtain who were unjustly deprived of their rights to even LISTEN freely. Hell, now it could be the name of a movement against greed and idiocy in the recording industry….

  15. WHat about NPR? (National Public Radio, for you outside the USA). Can we listen to classical? Can we listen to Techno that isn’t licensed? Can I sit in the window and strum my damned guitar and then sue the people who walk by and overhear it?
    I see a big resurgence in “house music” coming from this, and more and more people will be falling off of the studio-music listener bandwagon.

  16. The same thing is happening in Finland, too. Personally I think the music is purely for the worker’s personal enjoyment. I don’t really care for the music they play at hairdressers etc. and would most often rather have them turn the damn thing off. The sound is there just to help the workers get through yet another day. Period.

  17. What IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE? Enough is enough, and they get away with it, so it’s just going to get worse and worse.
    If my neighbour plays his stereo too loud, and I hear it, does that count as public performance too?
    Will this cover private parties soon where I make a CD mix to play at the party?

    Am off to download music, screw those f*ckers.

  18. The court’s decision is at . As the judge complained “neither party saw fit to address me on the law as to what might properly amount to the public playing or performance of copyright works”, and the argument was on marginal questions such as whether the PRS had given fair notice of the times and dates music was played, it’s hard to see this as establishing any point of principle.

    If this case goes further, I’d hope counsel for Kwik-Fit pulls his finger out and points out that playing of music which the public can incidentally hear is not an infringement of copyright under section 19 of the Copyright Act, whether in Scotland or any other part of the United Kingdom. Plenty of legal authority on this!

  19. This has been going on for a while in Norway as well. In the fifties, TONO (Norwegian equivialent of RIAA) took a factory to court for playing music from records over the loudspeaker systems in the production halls. They won this case, and they’ve later used this as precedense for charging fees from any business that plays music for their employess and/or customers, even if the source is a radio.

    This includes hair dressing salons and taxis.

    A couple of years ago, they even tried to expand this principle, and they sent bills to any business that supplies their employees with the necessary tools to listen to music. So if you’re listening to a radio with headphones, the employer will have to pay music distibution fees if they paid for the radio. This also applies to company cars with radio.

    Finally, TONO decided that the same principle could be applied to internet radio. Meaning that any company that gives their employees access to computers with an internet connection and a sound card should have to pay music distribution fees.

    As the negative press grew, TONO eventually realized they’d gone too far, though, so they blamed everything on their license billing partners and cut all ties to them.

  20. Sometime in the 1980’s a similar case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court determined that a radio in a work place was legal for the workers to listen to, but it was not legal to play RADIO for the customers. The case was against THE GAP that had been accused (and found guilty) of using RADIO to create atmosphere in the stores, aiding in sales. Stores are NOT allowed to do this without compensating the ARTISTS the court determined. Sales of “canned” music immediately increased, as ALL businesses (in the U.S. then ceased the practice). Just because it has been 20 years or so since that decision, does not alter the fact that the practice is Illegal in the U.S.

  21. I’m trying to think of all the places I’ve worked that would totally suck ass if I couldn’t listen to the radio, or CD’s or something!

    All the 110 degree days I worked in the machine shop and the only thing I got to hear other than my mill was the radio. Or the binder manufacturer where I absolutely hated going day in and day out, and I could go about my work and just groove to the radio.

    This time the copyright freaks are going beyond unchecked greed! This is the worst kind of attack. This is an attack on all of us. All of us that go to work every day and night, all of us that go into work because we’re responsible, and we’re trying to provide for our families and keep a roof over our heads, all of us that whether or not we like our jobs, we take the slightest bit of sollace that we can listen to something on the radio that we enjoy while we work!

  22. I would much rather use an iPod to listen to my music rather than listen to Home Depot’s “masculine females, and feminine men” songs. Trust me, I would be terribly safe with headphones.

  23. Same thing in Canada…last year it was dentists they went after, this year, it’s the hair dressers. Radio stations already pay to play tunes. Technically, in offices where the radios are piped in to different workspaces, it is rebroadcasting. And this is what SOCAN wants those folks to pay for. However, I believe it’s not rebroadcasting for a profit so I think it shouldn’t apply.

  24. Copyeditors who work in trade book publishing are all trained to watch for quotations from song lyrics. Nobody even tries to claim fair use, or legitimate commentary, though in theory the law allows it. The music companies have lawyers to burn, whereas publishing companies have neither the time nor the money to fight such cases; and so the music companies enforce a level of non-use not granted to any other class of copyright holders.

  25. I work in a bank and this has just happened to us. I’m not sure what the circumstances were but now we have to listen to only public domain crap for ten hours a day and most of it sounds like circus music. I would rather work all day in silence.

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