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Issue 292 – Charities and voluntary groups to face new ‘tax’ on playing music

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 Frome’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.
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. The campaign has received the backing of Frome MP David Heath.
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.
From a charity shop playing music in the background, to a carer’s association playing music to entertain children, the charges will be far-reaching. Even fundraisers wanting to put on a one-off charity event will be penalised.
MP David Heath told the Frome Times, “I absolutely understand the need for musicians to get royalties for their work and in that context I am a great supporter of musicians and making sure they get what they are due on their intellectual property. However, I think the government have got this completely wrong.
“Every small user, whether they are a pub, a bed and breakfast, or an office where somebody has turned on a radio will have to pay.
“It will have an enormous effect on charities. I have been contacted by people involved in carnivals and from what I understand, this will mean that each and every float that plays music will have to pay for an individual licence.
“It is a case of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. As far as I am concerned, I think the royalties should be paid for by the broadcaster, not the person who switches on the radio.”
Mayor of Frome, councillor Damon Hooton added, “This is yet another example of something being removed from charities and organisations to get more money for the coffers. It has reached the point where nothing now is sacred.
“Charity shops use music as a hook to get people into their shops, and individuals who support charities by putting on events will be hindered. As for the carnivals, particularly in Somerset, these changes could have a devastating impact.
“I am not suggesting this could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back but it could certainly be damaging for many charities.”
Rosie Eliot, of Frome-based charity Positive Action on Cancer said, “I do think it is a shame that volunteers who spend most of their day in the back of charity shops sorting out clothes and bric-a-brac will miss having a bit of music to keep them company.
“Lots of charities face a difficult balancing act in recruiting volunteers and giving them something worthwhile to do that is an enjoyable experience. Also the charity then has to make the difficult decision about paying for a licence out of its own funds.
“I know when I have to spend three or four hours stuffing envelopes, having my favourite music playing in the background makes the time go by much quicker.”