Monday, October 08, 2007

In Scotland, there's a court case alleging that playing the radio at work is a copyright violation. To wit:

Kwik-Fit sued over staff radios

A car repair firm has been taken to court accused of infringing musical copyright because its employees listen to radios at work.

The action against the Kwik-Fit Group has been brought by the Performing Rights Society which collects royalties for songwriters and performers.

At a procedural hearing at the Court of Session in Edinburgh a judge refused to dismiss the £200,000 damages claim.

Kwik-Fit wanted the case brought against it thrown out.

Lord Emslie ruled that the action can go ahead with evidence being heard.

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 maintained that amounts to the "playing" or "performance" of the music in public and renders the firm guilty of infringing copyright.

The Edinburgh-based firm, founded by Sir Tom Farmer, is contesting the action and said it has a 10 year policy banning the use of personal radios in the workplace.

Playing music

The PRS lodged details of countrywide inspection data over the audible playing of music at Kwik-Fit on more than 250 occasions in and after 2005.

It claimed that its pleadings in the action were more than enough to allow a hearing of evidence in the case at which they would expect to establish everything allegedly found and recorded at inspection visits.

Lord Emslie said: "The key point to note, it was said, was that the findings on each occasion were the same with music audibly 'blaring' from employee's radios in such circumstances that the defenders' [Kwik-Fit] local and central management could not have failed to be aware of what was going on."

The judge said: "The allegations are of a widespread and consistent picture emerging over many years whereby routine copyright infringement in the workplace was, or inferentially must have been, known to and 'authorised' or 'permitted' by local and central management."

He said that if that was established after evidence it was "at least possible" that liability for copyright infringement would be brought home against Kwik-Fit.

But Lord Emslie said he should not be taken as accepting that the PRS would necessarily succeed in their claims.


Apparently, the US hasn't got a monopoly on screwed-up litigation that gets allowed to proceed in court (instead of being tossed out, as I'd have expected this to be).

Boy, don't let the Performing Rights Society come over to the US. They'll hear radios playing in a good 90% of the stores and mall concourses I visit.

Silly me, I kind of thought that the performers in question would WANT their music to be heard on the radio, by as many people as possible. Doesn't that amount to free publicity for their work? And doesn't that increase the possibility that someone will hear the song, and like it enough to PURCHASE it? Or that they'll like the artist enough to attend a concert? I guess that line of thinking is so 20th-Century, huh?

However, if the PRS wants to crack down on the unauthorized turning of music into a "public performance", I have some suggestions for them. Can they sue the ignoramuses who drive their cars with their stereos blaring loudly enough to be audible three blocks away? How about the dunderhead commuters whose personal music players are cranked up to such a volume, the auditory leakage from their earphones can be distinctly heard half-a-bus-length away... can someone issue them a summons, too? Now if they'd do THAT, most sane people would consider their actions to be a public service, and not unwarranted litigation.

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