Comment by: Louise Beaton
Focus area: Volunteer events
Regulator concerned: Intellectual Property Office (IPO)
The requirement to hold a PRS and/or PPL licence for events that include public performance of copyright music is a nuisance and sometimes results in double charging. PRS claim they only licence premises, not individuals, but volunteer run premises such as village halls that are only occasionally used for public events with music cannot afford to have an annual licence if they do not need it (charges can be £hundreds). Hall trustees want to put the responsibility for getting a licence on hirers that need it, through their hiring agreement. However, one village hall which did this ended up devising extra forms for hirers to complete, because PRS were so “hawkish” about the fact that it was a legal requirement for the premises to have a licence they felt they needed belt and braces to cover themselves against legal action by PRS. While one understands the need for copyright fees this is not “life and death” like health and safety, and regulation should therefore be proportionate: It should be accepted by PRS that those halls or other premises that do not usually need a licence should be allowed to simply put in a hiring agreement that it is up to the hirer to obtain one. If a hirer fails to do so, PRS should be required to seek the fee due from the hirer, not the organisation running the premises. Such “legal threats” put people off volunteering as trustees. Double payment should also be avoided, for example festivals should not pay fees on income from events held at premises already holding a licence. Community premises that do hold licences should pay fees that relate to public use of music, not “defined income”, which is irrelevant. It would therefore be helpful if PRS offered “books of permits” for halls – eg halls with occasional music events should be able to buy a book of, say, 5 permits at a slightly reduced price and use them up when needed, which could be over a period of years, before buying a new one. That would save administration for PRS and halls and event organisers.