21st October 2009 20:20 by Andrew Robinson
The Performing Rights Society don't like bad press. Today, the BBC are reporting that the PRS have backed down after threatening 56 year old Sandra Burt of the A&T Food store in Clackmannanshire, Scotland with a fine of "thousands of pounds" for the serious crime of singing to herself while stacking shelves without purchasing a licence.
Threats from the rights organisation had already forced the shop to get rid of the radio that Sandra Burt used to enjoy listening to, despite the fact that the radio station had already paid the monopoly's self dictated rate for the right to broadcast music to the public.Under the glare of publicity, the PRS sent Mrs Burt a bouquet of flowers and letter of apology. She still can't have the radio on at work, or play CDs that she's paid for at work, but she can now sing.
It's tempting to look at this and declare it a victory for common sense, but the fact remains that under our legal system the PRS still have the legal right to 'double dip' by charging radio stations and radio listeners twice for the same thing, they still have the legal right to threaten shop workers for singing without a licence while stacking shelves, and they still have the right to force businesses to ban their staff from listening to radios. One person may have shamed them into backing down, but the central problem still exists.
This won't really be a victory until we all have the right to sing, hum and whistle at work if we choose to do so. I've just visited the PRS website and applied for a licence to sing hum and whistle at work, in the same way that Sandra Burt has been allowed to. I can't see any reason for the PRS should not grant this licence, after all, there is no moral difference between us and Sandra Burt.
My use of the word 'us' is intentional. When I filled out the licence application, I specified the performers and the business premises that I think should have the same rights that have now been granted to Sandra Burt as 'everybody' at 'all business addresses'.
I await the reply to my licence request with interest.