When it comes to copyright, we live in a strange world of double-standards. One minute a minor copyright infringer will be ignored or tolerated, the next thing we know – such as in the recent OiNK arrests – those same civil law infringements are inflated to become some sort of next-level serious cyber-crime.
A few days later, and those same offenses are now just worthy of a simple warning – confusing times.
Today, the strange world of copyright has the music industry threatening those it has encouraged to work for them in the OiNK case – the police.
UK music licensing outfit the “Performing Right Society” (PRS) – the guys that come asking for money when you play any music within earshot of the public – is rolling out the big guns ready for a High Court showdown with a little known group of music pirates, known in the UK as ‘the police’. Not the band of the same name, but that government organization people rely on for keeping law and order.
According to a report, the police in the county of Lancashire have apparently committed a terrible crime and let the whole country down. Rather like the copyright infringing tea-rooms and their carol-singing occupants we wrote about last year, it appears that the police have been recklessly listening to music in stations all over the county – without a license. The PRS aren’t happy.
Chief Constable Steve Finnigan is the guy being held accountable for this awful breach of copyright across 34 police stations in his county. One shudders to think of the damage that these boys-in-blue have caused the industry, as they coincidentally listen to the radio at the same time as serving the citizens of Britain. But it doesn’t stop there – according to a High Court writ, unlicensed music has also been played in police gyms, conferences, presentations and office parties.
As if things aren’t bad enough, there are worrying claims that telephone callers to police stations were put on hold and forced to listen to unlicensed music while they waited to report crimes. The trauma of ‘holding music’ is bad enough, but throw ‘unlicensed’ holding music into the mix and the gravity of this infringement is obvious.
The PRS is looking to get an injunction against the force and if it’s successful it will silence music in police stations right across the county, unless they dig deep for the appropriate license. The PRS is also sensitively and sensibly claiming damages from the already under-funded police.
It seems that further police forces in the UK have informed the PRS that music is often played in the background in their offices, with eleven of them either failing or refusing to obtain licenses enabling them to listen to it legally.
Generally, the PRS make a request for information from people who they believe should be paying them money, usually by letter. The recipient is then expected to tell them all about their music-playing antics and after this is complete, the PRS calculate and then send out a bill. Interestingly, it’s claimed that the head of legal services at Lancashire police told the PRS that she had instructed her colleagues to ignore the requests for information. She then emailed the PRS and said she had instructions to accept the service of proceedings against the force.
The PRS legal eagles believe that Steve Finnigan is admitting the claims, which could mean that the UK will shortly have its first Pirate Chief Constable. Let’s hope his associates at Cleveland Police don’t get involved – the last thing the police boss needs is to be arrested on conspiracy to defraud the music industry.