Thursday, October 22, 2009

PRS got greedy

After yesterday's story where the PRS grudgingly admitted demanding a licence for a shopworker who sang might be a little over-the-top, a bigger slap has come to the PRS from the Copyright Tribunal.

The tribunal has judged that hikes in royalty rates charged to shops in 2005 were excessive:

The 2005 increases resulted in some retailers suffering a doubling of costs overnight. One fashion retailer’s bill rose from £176,000 to £408,000 per year and a tile chain’s from £25,000 to £73,000.

The ruling should save retailers £5m a year and lead to the return of £20m to shops, restaurants and other affected businesses.

The PRS is going to appeal against this decision - and unsurprisingly so, as the need to scrabble together twenty million quid in a hurry could prove something of a difficulty.

Where would the PRS get that cash from? The fair thing to do would be to demand repayment from the artists who got too much in the first place - but that would seem to be costly and a bureaucratic nightmare - not to mention one which would cause a problem if Madonna decided she didn't want to hand the money back. Would PRS be able to sue her?

Dipping into the current revenues would seem to be simpler - but why should, say, La Roux or Little Boots, who weren't operating back when the PRS got greedy, have to see a dip in their royalty pay-out because Boyzone and Mika were getting too much in previous years?

Either way, it's hard to see that the current management of the PRS could claim they're operating solely in their artists' best interests. No wonder they're appealing.

[Thanks to Peter D]