Friday, January 13, 2006


If you're a dj, and you buy your music on CD, you might go out and play for a packed house some time. And why shouldn't you? You've paid for the music, and your venue will have a PRS licence to cover the public performance. If you're a bit more modern, you might download the tracks instead - as we know, there's no great saving for you doing so, as the prices of downloads are artificially inflated so the cost of a track on record and a track without the overheads of physical distribution costs the same. You go to the same venue, with the same public performance licences, and you're sorted. Right?

Wrong. Apparently, for no reason other than the music you're playing is coming from a laptop, you're expected to have another £200 licence. Why?

Because the music industry is greedy. That's not what Peter Leathern, Business Affairs director of the PPL, is saying, of course. They're being reasonable. They are reasonable men:

"Rather than saying stop it, don't do it, we've actually tried to embrace what people want to do and come up with a licence to be able to do that."

Isn't that great of them? What guys. But how can your average dj - a person who's more likely to be an enthusiast than a superstar, making a few quid and possibly being paid in drinks instead of actual money - come up with £200? Isn't that going to wipe out not just the profit margin for a lot of small djs, but also raise their expenses beyond a manageable level?

Leathern reminds them they have a choice:

"You don't actually have to DJ using a laptop. You can use vinyl, you can use CD, so we're saying that if it's not worth your while spending £200 then don't do it."

Yeah, you cheapskates - you keep struggling with your boxes of vinyl if you don't want to help carpet the PPL offices and keep the indoor fountains flowing at record company HQs around the world. The PPL are being reasonable:

Mr Leathem said the licences were intended to make life easier for DJs, who could buy a single licence instead of having to contact the individual copyright owner of each track for permission.

And they're not going to come and seek you out. Not yet:

He said PPL would not take action to enforce the licences in the early stage of the scheme.

But once awareness had grown, it would start pursuing unlicensed DJs, who could face penalties including legal costs and breach of copyright damages.

Venues would be urged to check DJs were licensed before hiring them and those who turned a blind eye could also find themselves in trouble with the law.

Of course, what the reasonable Mr. Leathern doesn't explain is how the venues are to tell the difference between a bunch of tunes on a laptop which have been recorded from someone's vinyl collection (which - and forgive us if we're wrong here, but copyright law seems to shift everytime a guy in a London office fancies a new doughnut - is perfectly okay and covered by existing licences), and which have been downloaded. Of course, if they're going to be forced by the threat of legal action to police the souce of music being played in their rooms, they're going to take the line of least resistance and ban anyone who wants to use digital djing.

But don't worry: they're all reasonable.


karl said...

Bloody hell! These people won't be happy until they've sucked the joy out of everything will they? And surely it's a non-starter: as you point out, most venues will have a PRS licence, which, if memory serves, makes no differentiation between if the song is played on a jukebox, or by the landlord stood stark naked on the bar with a kazoo between his cheeks.
You also point out that most DJ's are enthusiasts, spinning discs for beer money, which is surely just free publicity. Case in point: for me and my partner, a fair number of Friday nights here in Nottingham end up in a dingy little boozer listening to a mix of old Stax, Motown and Muscle Shoals numbers, and most times I'll stagger up to the DJ and ask what the hell I'm listening to. And the following mor... well, afternoon I'll be deciphering soggy beermats and downloading stuff. Christ Almighty! Next you'll be telling me that I'm breaking the law by copying my CD's onto my MP3 play... oh.

Anonymous said...

I suspect the reason they are trying to shift licenses from venues to djs is that they will be able to audit djs music collections down the line to check that they are legit.

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