A government decision to make charities and local groups pay for a licence to play recorded music on their own premises has been met with scorn from Westbury’s civic leaders.
The government’s business secretary, Peter Mandelson, last month decided to abolish an exemption for charities from music licensing rules, meaning from April this year they will have to pay hefty bills for holding events with recorded music.
All organisations wishing to play music in a retail outlet are obliged to purchase a licence from the Performing Rights Society (PRS), which represents composers and songwriters. There is no exemption for charities.
Most organisations must also purchase a licence from Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL), which represents performers and record companies. At present, Sections 67 and 72 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 render charities exempt from this obligation. However, following a public consultation conducted by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), the Government has decided to end this exemption. Consequently, from April 2010, charities will be required to purchase PPL licences as well as PRS licences.
The National Council for Voluntary Organisations is running a ‘Don’t Stop the Music’ campaign which encourages people to make their objections to the changes heard.
Imperial Charity, which has a shop in Warminster Road, Westbury, would be one of many charities affected if the changes are implemented. The charity is committed to helping children and adults with special needs improve their quality of life.
David McCance of Imperial Charity said, “It’s just another ploy to make more money and we simply cannot afford it.
“Charities like us are trying to make cutbacks at the moment as things are. The last thing we need is to be charged for this.”
MP Andrew Murrison told the White Horse News, “I have had some correspondence from both sides of the argument. I have been contacted by a local shopkeeper as well as a musician who found his track being played somewhere.
“My view is that artists have legitimate expectation of income for their efforts but one would hope that it could be balanced with some level of common sense. The Government claims it is achieving a balance by taking this decision but this is clearly not the case: it is seeking to strengthen protection for rights holders through new legislation against online piracy in the Digital Economy Bill, but progress on the consultation on copyright exceptions, which would seek to rebalance some aspects of copyright law in favour of users, has been pitifully slow.
“We would want to build a robust and up-to-date intellectual property framework that strikes the right balance between protection for creators and flexibility for users. The Government should maintain the existing charity exemptions established by Parliament, reconsidering the situation only as part of the broader package to update copyright law which is sorely needed.”
The new licensing system, which is due to come into force in April, is estimated to cost the voluntary and community sector upwards of £20 million.