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Listening To The Radio At Work? Prepare To Be Sued 486

MLCT writes "The Performing Rights Society, one of the UK's royalties collecting societies, has taken a Scottish car servicing company to court because the employees are alleged to have been listening to the radio at work, allowing the music to be 'heard by colleagues and customers'. The PRS is seeking £200,000 in damages for the 'performances of the music' which they claim equates to copyright infringement. The judge, Lord Emslie, has ruled that the case can continue to hearing evidence, commenting that the key point to note was that music was 'audibly blaring from employee's radios'. Where do the extents of a 'public performance' end? Radios on in cabs?"
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Listening To The Radio At Work? Prepare To Be Sued

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  • by j0e_average ( 611151 ) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @10:08PM (#20892891)
    It is completely unreasonable to expect compensation for second-hand radio.
    • by Duhavid ( 677874 ) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @10:27PM (#20893103)
      What about second hand smoke?

      I think the tobacco companies should sue
      everyone for enjoying their products at
      second ( or even third ) hand.
    • by ediron2 ( 246908 ) * on Sunday October 07, 2007 @10:45PM (#20893251) Journal
      Heh... second-hand got me to thinking: imagine a second-hand-smoke victim receiving a countersuit by tobacco companies because they were able to inhale cigarette smoke they hadn't paid for.

      This is about that absurd.

      Theatrical broadcast implies a desire for an audience to hear the performance leading them to the venue. Charging admission shows enrichment. Venue must reimburse the artists in such a case. Sensible so far.

      Muzak (or elevator music or bland background music, for those that don't know the slang) creates mood for a particular commercial location (restaurant, store, elevator, or even music-on-hold). This mood is carefully cultivated for whatever commercial goal by the vendor, so the vendor should be reimbursing artists for their help in making the store/restaurant mood.

      But music played by workers at a construction site or a repair shop... that's for the benefit of the employees and usually at the expense of the customer. I'd no sooner wander down to the mechanic's to listen to his boom box than I'd want to eavesdrop off most strangers' ipods. Hell, I thought that was the greatest part of ipods: boomboxes became anachronistic jokes.

      Charging royalties for unwanted intrusions of music is the most absurd damn thing I've ever heard of, and tries to claim economic value where none exists. It'd be like demanding royalties from the owners of all those noisy damn cars driving around with mega stereos in their trunks rattling my windows...

      Hmm... on the other hand, maybe I'm in *favor* of this, if another wave of unwanted noiseboxes are silenced. Dumbass argument, desirable side effect.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Rodyland ( 947093 )

        I'd no sooner wander down to the mechanic's to listen to his boom box than I'd want to eavesdrop off most strangers' ipods. Hell, I thought that was the greatest part of ipods: boomboxes became anachronistic jokes.

        Not sure where you travel, but on public transport here in Melbourne, the music coming out of some people's iPods could easily be called a public performance.

      • by M. Baranczak ( 726671 ) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @11:34PM (#20893583)

        This is about that absurd.
        A parable:

        Nasrudin was walking down the street one day, and came upon a man arguing with a merchant who was selling stew out of a street stall. According to the merchant, the man spent all day hanging around next to the stall, inhaling the aroma of the stew, but not buying anything; the merchant was demanding compensation for the service that he provided.

        Nasrudin, hearing this, took the man's money purse, held it near the merchant's head, and shook it gently for a few moments. Then he said: "Now you're even. He's smelled your food, and you've heard his money jingle."

      • The listeners don't pay for content played on the radio directly, the radio station pays for the right to broadcast the music.
        The radio station then makes money from advertisers, who advertise because they consider the listener base a large enough for their commercials.
        The music being played on the radio is ALREADY LICENSED for people within range of the station to listen to it, and it's in the stations interest for more people to listen.
        Those people who are close enough to the garage to hear the radio, are obviously within range of the radio station and could use their own radio to listen to it if they wanted. The fact that they're not using their own radio is helping the environment in a small way by saving power. I would imagine that virtually all of the customers of this car servicing company own their own radio too, because it's a really long time since i saw any kind of car which didn't have a radio fitted as standard.
        Hopefully this ridiculous case will be thrown out with the servicing company being awarded compensation for the legal costs incurred defending against such a pointless suit.
        • by Wylfing ( 144940 ) <brian&wylfing,net> on Monday October 08, 2007 @05:13AM (#20895659) Homepage Journal

          Those people who are close enough to the garage to hear the radio, are obviously within range of the radio station and could use their own radio to listen to it if they wanted.

          That's really it. If there are 20 people in a room, and each of them has a radio, all tuned to the same station, this is apparently fine. The absurdity of this claim is that if they all listen to exactly the same content but from one radio instead of 20 radios, that's copyright infringement.

        • There is no way this is going to get thrown out. The servicing chain will loose, loose big time, and frankly I'm amazed such a big brand has been this dumb.

          Fees for playing the radio or CDs in shops or offices are well known in the UK. The law may well be an ass, but this particular law is very well known, and any businessman who claims ignorance or rebellion is going to get squished in court.

          Kwik-Fit are the most well-known brand of chain garages in the UK. That they've been stupid enough to let employees
      • Muzak (or elevator music or bland background music, for those that don't know the slang)

        Actually Muzak ( is a corporation, which exists for decades. Their mission is to grace humanity with this fine music you can hear in elevators and shopping malls throughout the world.

        "Music" that is filtered and frequency optimized so it doesn't disturb your lift riding -, or shopping experience.

        So no, even if a lot of people think so, Muzak is not a slang word for rotten music. Then again: The general public has hardly any dealings with Muzak LLC (apart from being forced to listen to

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          So no, even if a lot of people think so, Muzak is not a slang word for rotten music.

          Muzak *is* a slang word for rotten music to precisely the degree that people think it is. It is horrifying to contemplate for some (myself included), but the rules of language are whatever people believe they are. People break the rules all the time; if a large enough number of people start breaking a given rule the same way, their way of doing things becomes a new rule, at least within whatever group(s) those people have su

    • by Your Pal Dave ( 33229 ) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @10:45PM (#20893253)
      Somebody should compensate me for having to listen to the idiotic station that the jerk in the next cubicle listens to!
    • by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @11:15PM (#20893451)
      I don't understand the point here.

      Radio is supported by advertising. What does it matter if 500 people are listening to 500 radios or 500 are listening to a single radio? I understand that the idea is that "those are 500 people who will not be counted toward royalty payments", but since royalties are entirely calculated by the size of the listening audience -- how does it matter unless some of those 500 people are also part of some "Nielson" family? If they're all listening to separate radios, is some sort of magic going to occur where they can tell that 500 radios are turned on and to a specific station?
      • by delong ( 125205 ) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @11:56PM (#20893707)
        You still missed the point. The point is that it doesn't matter how many are listening to a single radio because the broadcaster pays the royalty, full stop.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Seumas ( 6865 )
          Of course it matters. In fact, that is the apparent entirety of the matter, correct?

          The reason a royalties board cares is that they charge fees based on the estimated size of the listening audience. That is why when you submit a request to play music in a commercial or in a store, you have to establish what use it will serve and approximately how many people will hear the music in a certain period of time. Likewise, you have to gauge a radio station's audience to guesstimate how much to charge them.

          My point
  • They sure are greedy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by slashqwerty ( 1099091 ) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @10:08PM (#20892895)
    Don't the radio stations already pay royalties? Why should the artists collect twice?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by adona1 ( 1078711 )
      I would be surprised if the artists collected anything from a lawsuit like this, except maybe a tarnished reputation.
    • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @10:23PM (#20893055)
      Why should the artists collect twice?

            This has nothing to do with the artists. In fact, the artists will never see a penny of this.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        >This has nothing to do with the artists. In fact, the artists will never see a penny of this.
        Not my understanding. PRS log every track and when/where it was played - they wouldn't bother if it didn't get to the artist. In fact I knew someone who used to make a fair living starting a multitude of 'bands' with similar names and relying on typos when keying in data for picking up a few quid here and there e.g. calling himself U3 and self publishing a single called 'New Years Eve' then picking up a % of U2
    • by Irvu ( 248207 )
      So the claim will probably be something along the lines of this:
      1. License fees per radio station are assessed on a per-listener basis.
      2. Listener counts are assessed based on the number of radios and the assumption of one listener per radio.
      3. OMFG! Sound travels and unless you use those headphone things other people could hear it ergo all assumptions are off.

      Note that the basic logic is not entirely off. In that, snarkiness aside, each premise does follow from the others. The hard part for them to claim is that

  • sigh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wizardforce ( 1005805 ) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @10:09PM (#20892909) Journal
    you know what is next, it'll become illegal for anyone to have only one copy of a cd because other people can hear it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by CompuGeek ( 11377 )
      Or have to pay because a person can smell baking bread at the bakery.
    • Re:sigh (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 07, 2007 @10:20PM (#20893035)
      This is already illegal.

      I buy at least 4 copies of each CD, with a separate player and headphones for each. When friends come over, we synchronize playback with the familiar 3-2-1 countdown. Are you saying you don't follow the procedure?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Dunbal ( 464142 )
        Nah, I just download my music from some torrent site and burn my friends a copy. Are you saying you don't follow the procedure?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Ashlocke ( 1094519 )
      Perhaps they should put a warning on the portable radio box:

      "Using the radio/CD/Casset player for anyone other than the owner is AGAINST THE LAW, AND MAY LEAD TO HARSH FINES."

  • by WwWonka ( 545303 ) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @10:09PM (#20892911)
    seriously? SERIOUSLY? hold on, let me think about this one a little more...............seriously????
    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @10:55PM (#20893321) Homepage Journal
      It could only happen in America. The Us has a broken legal system. Thank goodness nothing that stupid could ever happen in the EU...
      Oh never mind.
  • I never knew watching the guys wash your car counted as a performance. I suppose I'm more of a performing arts snob than I thought....
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      I never knew watching the guys wash your car counted as a performance.
      All the carwash fundraisers cheerleading squads like to do are pretty clearly performances, even if they wouldn't like to admit it.
  • by EvanED ( 569694 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [denave]> on Sunday October 07, 2007 @10:09PM (#20892915)
    If they lose, sanity prevails.

    But if they win, it provides precedent to sue anyone driving by with their car stereo too loud, so at least we get something out of the mess.
  • by Reality Master 201 ( 578873 ) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @10:10PM (#20892917) Journal
    I mean, holy shit, that's possibly the stupidest thing I ever heard.
    • I'm really quite flabbergasted by stories such as these. It increasingly seems that being bat-shit insane is a prerequisite to do business in the entertainment industry. I can accept this for artists, but such a characteristic in the paper-pushers has become rather annoying of late. I can only wish that they are soon visited by the ghosts of Music -Past, -Present, and -Future respectively, and instructed on the error of their ways.
  • by anagama ( 611277 ) <> on Sunday October 07, 2007 @10:10PM (#20892925) Homepage
    When the hell is someone going to sue the idiots with the car stereos I can hear a mile away?!!!

    Damn right -- get the hell off my lawn.
  • It's the law (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JustShootMe ( 122551 ) * <> on Sunday October 07, 2007 @10:11PM (#20892937) Homepage Journal
    Oddly enough, it is the law. This law may make no sense, but if you want it changed, you have to contect your elected representatives and convince them to change it.

    On the flip side, this is what happens when record companies get desperate. That is a good thing, it means they're losing.

    I'm all for people getting compensated for their hard work, but by any standard, this is ridiculous.

    (Are the headphone makers sponsoring this?)
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Dunbal ( 464142 )
      you have to contect your elected representatives

            I have no idea how to contect them, but hopefully it's a process that involves a lot of pain on their part.
    • by GaryPatterson ( 852699 ) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @10:32PM (#20893153)
      First the ignored us.
      Then they laughed at us.
      Then then fought us (costing many of us fines of several thousand, and some people were fined everything and live in squalid bankrupcy to this day)
      Then we win (except for everyone sued or taken to court and/or the cleaners by the system that supported the big companies)

      Um... Yay?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by liquidpele ( 663430 )
      Gotta disagree with you.

      Radio is typically a non-paid-for commodity. It's paid for by ads, but the users do not support it, they listen in for free.

      The legal precedents against the sharing of media like this (at least in the US) are for cable TV, HBO fights, etc. Things people are supposed to pay for individually, but then display for others in large groups.

      The only way I could see this holding would be if it was XM or Sirius satellite radio, where the user is supposed to be paying a subscriptio
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by JustShootMe ( 122551 ) *
        That's why laws like that don't make sense. But they do exist in some forms and in some jurisdictions.
  • Not Surprising (Score:5, Informative)

    by mashade ( 912744 ) <mshade.mshade@org> on Sunday October 07, 2007 @10:12PM (#20892947) Homepage
    As a former restaurant manager, this isn't news to me - though the setting is different.

    I was once approached by a BMI agent about the music playing in the kitchen for this same reason. ASCAP and BMI will go after restaurants for royalties from jukeboxes, or bands playing cover songs -- and even your kitchen crew playing their favorite tunes while they work, if it's audible to the customers. That was the stipulation, it had to be quiet enough not to beard from the dining room. Of course, we wanted it that way anyway so as not to interfere with the house music, but on lulls sometimes sound travels.

    I thought it had gone too far at that point, without the madness from the RIAA and their relatively recent infringement suits. They've been out of line for a while, folks!
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 07, 2007 @10:31PM (#20893139)
      After reading about the lawsuit against [], under the ADA, for the web site not being friendly to the blind, I was thinking - about a lawsuit against the RIAA for not making music accessible to the deaf? Make them publish all the lyrics or something.
    • As for the jukeboxes can you just say what other places with pinball and video games say "They are not our games" you have to talk with the people who own the games.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by fermion ( 181285 )
      I know this is nothing new, but I have never understood it. A radio station licenses and pays for music that can be heard all over it's market by anyone who has a radio. The music is paid for. Anyone in that market may listen to it. Now, I understand that piping the music over phones is a grey area, as the music may then leave the market, and therefore have no problem with having to pay extra for hold music, but music from the radio at a business. It makes no sense. Most businesses would not use it an
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kohath ( 38547 )
      Yeah. This has been the rule for how many decades now?

      It seems like every week, Slashdot will get outraged about some extremely old news. Outraged!

      "What's next?", they ask. Well, it's been 20 or 50 years, so what was next?
  • On hold (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @10:12PM (#20892951) Homepage Journal

    Back when I worked for the state government road authority we ran a small call centre for breakdowns, etc. The audio switcher had an input for an on hold message and for a long time we fed in a signal from a commercial radio station.

    The theory is that they are broadcasting N copies of their signal anyway, and a few extra listeners are also going to be hearing the advertisements which pay for the broadcast. It scales, so what is the problem?

    More to the point, if I listen alone in my car and an advert comes on then I will change to a different station. If I am listening to somebody else's radio then I have to listen to the advert, so by that argument they should be encouraging people to share radios.

    • by brunes69 ( 86786 )
      The record companies don't get paid extra when you listen tom advertisements.

      Trust me, the desires of the radio stations and the desires of the record companies DO NOT agree in this area. If it were up to the radio stations they would happily have you blaring their tunes (and ads) to high heaven.
  • They can collect on "public performances" of the radio when they start paying me for trespassing on my property with all that RF.

    This is not a copyright violation as it's "publicly performing" things that were already sent out over public airways. Really, it's almost equivalent to the idiots suing because people used the "hacking technology" of HTTP to get the files they publicly offered.
  • by Boap ( 559344 ) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @10:13PM (#20892961)
    That is why most stores use Muzak so they do not get sued for royalties. I worked for a store in 1986 that had to move in this direction as they were sued by the recording industry and they went to Muzak.
  • Advertising? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by deniable ( 76198 ) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @10:13PM (#20892963)
    Isn't the point of radio to be listened to by as many people as possible. If your song gets airplay then people might buy your album. Wasn't that the whole point of payola? Plus, they get royalties each time the song is played.

    This way they can cannibalize the radio audience for a few bucks and keep charging the same royalties. I think I should patent a business model.

    I bet their next action is to sue people selling CDs. They'll go after a big offender like Virgin.
  • Wow (Score:4, Interesting)

    by olddotter ( 638430 ) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @10:17PM (#20892997) Homepage
    As an American I am both saddened and happy to see this case is in the UK. It is sad that the stupidity is everywhere. It is nice to see our society isn't the only one about to implode under the weight of insane lawsuits.

    IANAL -- My understanding in the US, is that it would be ok to listen to the RADIO in this setting, but not to bring in your own CDs and blast them out. The difference being that the Radio station is paying the royalties for a public performance. Any lawyers want to comment?

    • As another poster remarked, try doing that in a restaurant and watch the bills come in.

      It's no better here.
    • The difference being that the Radio station is paying the royalties for a public performance.

      Actually, not exactly. While radio does pay royalties to the song writer, it is the only major country that DOESN'T pay royalties to the record company and/or performers. Why? Because it's considered free advertising for the sale of that song and the concert performances for the artists.

      In fact, to borrow the In The Soviet Union line...

      In the United States, Payola goes to the radio station.

    • Re: Wow (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gpw213 ( 691600 )
      IANAL, but a bit of googling found references to section 110(5) of the Music Licensing Act of 1998. The best summary of the legalese I found was:

      Now the Music Licensing Act draws the line between private and public in terms of the type of public establishment, the size, and the stereo equipment used. Restaurants and bars under 3,750 square feet or retail establishments under 2,000 square feet are exempt from paying fees for playing radio or TV broadcasts for their customers. Public places of any size that

  • by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 ) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @10:19PM (#20893023)

    Seriously. WTF do you want? Payment for each and every set of ears that might be in close proximity to a set of speakers that is playing stuff you've already been paid for.

    Let me reiterate...
    Kiss. My. Ass.
    • Hey, it ain't anything new. You know they already get a tax on all of your blank media, yet you're still not allowed to copy stuff to it.

      The recording industry is simply a racket with the full support of lawmakers.
    • I've heard of Kiss, but not the other two groups ...
  • What are these tools going to do when they find out that people can get radio over the Internet? Open branch offices in other countries?
  • What?! (Score:2, Funny)

    by morari ( 1080535 )
    I've called the police several times because I could hear the music of the tenant in the downstairs apartment! Nothing ever happens. I was hoping for a noise violation, but this seems much sweeter...
    • Did you call them during the day, or in the middle of the night? If you called during the day, they probably just figured *you* are being the agitator. Frankly, I'd probably agree with that. (as long as it wasn't rattling your windows, etc.)

      But that does call to mind a good strategy. Rat them out to the RIAA. :P
  • My local 24hour Tesco plays local radio over the tannoy system during the middle of the night, the music makes shopping a bit more pleasant (that and no crowds of absent minded shoppers getting in the way), so does that mean Tesco have paid royalties or are they due for a big sue?
  • I'm all for it! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Cleon ( 471197 ) <cleon42@[ ] ['yah' in gap]> on Sunday October 07, 2007 @10:30PM (#20893137) Homepage
    Between this and the RIAA's campaign of suing grandmothers and 12-year-olds, I say--more power to 'em!

    The more the recording industry engages in these batshit-crazy pursuits of extra money, the more people will come to realize that the entire "intellectual property" legal system needs to be completely rethought. The EFF can only dream of being able to this kind of support; these bozos manage to do the job well enough on their own.
  • Simple (Score:3, Insightful)

    by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @10:34PM (#20893171) Homepage Journal
    A radio with a tape or CD in it does violate the rules on public performances. A radio pulling broadcast off an antenna does not, because the royalties are already paid by the radio station. And are being played on public airwaves for anyone to receive.

    There are no damages when a radio is played in public, the advertising gets sent out to even more people, and the radio station makes money and the recording company makes money. There can be no damages due to loss, only the Chinese company that makes the radios can claim there was some sort of damage, and that is outside the scope of copyright laws.

    I am not a lawyer, nor am I familiar with UK case precedence, so like most people on Slashdot, my opinion counts for diddlysquat.
  • Copyright Infringement this! Copyright Infringement that! Making Available == Copyright Infringement. Letting someone overhear your radio == Public Performance == Copyright Infringement. Copyrights that run until the heat death of the Universe!


  • over the last few months, while reading slashdot at work, my fellow employees have been walking by my cubicle, perhaps seeing your comments without me first asking your permission

    please don't sue me
  • Until now I had suspected the music industry was just run by stupid people. This just makes it look like those running it are deliberately trying to destroy the "music industry". Guy Hands (EMI boss) admitted today that artists don't need the labels for distribution so what are they good for then...

    I can only hope that the defense representatives in this case take the court out for a walk around the block to count the number of radios that can be overheard. Someone mentioned suing speaker manufacturers and

  • by adnonsense ( 826530 ) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @11:12PM (#20893435) Homepage Journal

    There's an organisation called "GEMA []" who actively look out for their customers' interests, which includes scouting round for shops, restaurants etc. who commit the heinous crime of playing music from CDs, radios etc. they already own.

  • Seriously? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by log0n ( 18224 ) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @11:39PM (#20893609)
    If they are going to be this petty.. why not take it one step further.. start suing people for singing to/around another person.. start suing people for quoting/tattooing/anything meaningful stanzas to get their fair share.. start suing people for tattooing band names as those are copyrighted and/or trademarked.

    Jesus.. I mean.. seriously.. do they even care about their perception with their customers anymore?

    I've been taking it one step further than everyone who refuses to buy RIAA/CRIA/UKIA(?) recordings. I make my living in music and I'm doing everything I can to achieve and maintain my measure of "success" while not succumbing to these measures. Just a few weeks ago, I truthfully walked away from a potential career "discovery" because of the terms and games that would have been required to accept - I wasn't willing to sacrifice who I am, what I believe and what my art means to me. I don't know what I may have missed out on.. I can imagine certainly, but I do know exactly how much I wouldn't respect myself and that's far more important to me.

    The whole entertainment industry is disgusting. I hope they keep blacking and withering their essence, they are their own cancer that's going to kill them slowly from the inside out.
  • by DaveAtFraud ( 460127 ) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @11:44PM (#20893643) Homepage Journal
    Does this mean I can sick the RIAA on the guy in the car in the next lane for blaring his bad taste in music at everyone within a thousand yards of his car? Could be a useful precedent.


Forty two.