Do you play a little background noise in your store? Some muzak or a wittering DJ? It provides a little light relief for you, your staff, even customers. Oops, you do need a licence to do this and not many seem to know it, judging from the calls I receive.
Sue Hay, who trades at Ponswood, St Leonards-on-Sea, faxed me a query about a letter she received from the Performing Rights Society (PRS) asking her to cough up for a music licence. She thought it might be a scam.
The letter said: "Dear Ponswood, are you breaking the law? If your customers or employees are listening to copyright music on your premises, by law you must ensure you hold the necessary permission. This includes music played by any means, including live perfomance, CD, radio, TV, on telephone systems, internet, plus
many more."
Sue could have had even worse news because there is another society, called the PPL (Phonographic Performance Limited) which has also been writing to stores that it believes have been 'narrowcasting' (as opposed to broadcasting which is governed by the PRS).
Let me try, probably poorly, to sum this up for you. If you have a CD player in store,
then you probably need both licences.
PRS collects on behalf of songwriters and composers, but royalties are now also due to the recording companies, which PPL is collecting.
As PPL says: "If you are playing sound recordings in public you will need a public performance licence from PPL even if you already have a
PRS licence."
I asked PRS how it polices its scheme and a spokeswoman said: "We send letters, we call them up, we do random checks and we can backdate for up to six years."
I said what if a retailer says, oops, I only put the radio here yesterday? The PRS will take you at your word.