The UK’s Performing Rights Society (PRS) charges for all copyrighted music played or performed outside of an individual’s home. The group distributes the collected royalties to the writers and publishers of the songs. The trouble is, they have a tendency to take their music-police status a little too far.
PRS recently demanded an £80 annual fee from a corner shop to allow it to keep its radio, but a cunning plan was hatched by one of the employees that enabled it to avoid the charges.
Sandra Burt, a 56-year-old grandmother shop assistant at A & T Food Store in Clackmannan, turned off the radio and began to personally serenade her customers instead. Ha! Take that PRS!
But it wasn’t to be. The PRS got in touch and said that Mrs Burt’s singing constituted a live performance and was subject to a “four figure” annual fee. The PRS said that Mrs Burt was “getting up to mischief” to avoid paying the fine.
Nevertheless, Mrs Burt was told her activities are illegal and she had to pay.
“She could be fined for not having a live performance licence,” said a PRS spokesman at the time, “and if the fine isn’t paid, then she could potentially be taken to court.”
But now the PRS is having to eat its words, along with a large helping of humble pie and a nice groveling apology dessert. They have suddenly realized, strangely, that everything has just been one big mistake all along and have taken all the threats back. How nice.
But in reality, although she tried Mrs Burt simply couldn’t comply and has been compulsively infringing copyright all along.
“I couldn’t stop myself singing,” she told the BBC.
“They would need to put a plaster over my mouth to get me to stop, I can’t help it,” she said.
“We’re very sorry we made a big mistake,” said a note attached to a big bunch of flowers from the PRS to Mrs Burt. “We hear you have a lovely singing voice and we wish you good luck.” I guess that makes it all ok then.