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News - 24 October 2009

Payback time for retailers that play background music

A legal ruling over the copyright fees shops are charged for playing music in stores could save retailers £5 million a year and win them a £20 million refund of excessive charges levied on them over the last four years.

Shops, pubs restaurants and other businesses that play recorded music (including from television and in-store or conventional radio stations) have to pay for a licence. A company called Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) collects the fees on behalf of record companies.

In 2005 PPL imposed dramatic increases in the licence fee charges. Some outlets saw their costs more than double overnight. For example one clothing retail group’s bill rose from £176,000 to £408,000 a year and a chain of tile shops’ bill went from £25,000 to £73,000.

On behalf of a broad coalition of its members, large and small, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) joined with others in a legal battle to fight the unjustifiable scale of these increases.

On Thursday (22nd October) the Copyright Tribunal ruled that the increases were excessive and should be capped at 10%. PPL has said it will appeal but, if the decision is upheld, retailers stand to benefit to the tune of £5 million a year as well as receiving back £20 million they have been overcharged.

Andrew Opie, British Retail Consortium Food and Consumer Director said, “We welcome the Tribunal’s decision, which establishes a level of tariffs that’s fair for all parties. This is a great example of the BRC helping retailers large and small to pull together and fight an unfair cost that affects them all.

“Being able to play music or have a radio on is important for customers and staff in many shops. Artists and composers are entitled to a payment but increases on this scale cannot be justified and are out of reach for many retailers.

“We regret that PPL is not willing to accept the outcome and has decided to appeal.”

Click below for the full ruling.

Decision of the Copyright Trubunal in the case of BRC vs PPL

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