Guest Post by Ross Sharp

Christie Eliezer reports from TheMusic.com for June 16th …

“In the wake of its win over nightclubs, the record companies’ licensing arm the PPCA is now targeting cafes and restaurants. PPCA chief executive Stephen Peach says that they’ve been paying too little for music.

Under its proposals, a 120-seat place would now pay $19,344 instead of $125. Cafes could face a rise of $5860 from $124 — a rise of 4729%.

The proposed review of costs will work on a new formula based on how many “sessions” (breakfast, lunch, dinner) they were open, how many people could sit in the venue and the average price of a main meal. The eateries say this could destroy them. The Australian Hotels Association has asked the Small Business Commission and Australian Competition And Consumer Commission to investigate such potential hikes. The Restaurant and Catering Industry Association is asking its members through its site http://www.rcq.org.au to protest to the PPCA. Others say they’ll switch to classical music … or no music.”

I have been working in the copyright and royalty field for approximately 30 years now, and one of the rewards of the jobs I’ve held over that time has been remitting royalties to copyright owners and creators for the use of their work. That is, the ACTUAL use of their work, from sales, reproduction and secondary rights under statutory licences.

But PPCA’s naked grab for cash, for money for nothing, is little more than a shell game, a con, a sleight of hand. It is, to put it bluntly, sheer bullsh*t, and it gives the copyright industry, the legitimate copyright industry, a bad name. It soils us all.

For, unlike other copyright agencies such as APRA (The Australasian Performing Rights Association, representing composers), CAL (Copyright Agency Limited, representing authors), Viscopy (visual artists) and Screenrights (film & television producers), PPCA’s licences are issued not on the basis of actual usage of a thing, but on the assumption of usage. Their annual distribution of royalties to recording artists and record companies (split 50/50 between the two) is based, not on the music that has actually been broadcast in a public place such as restaurant or a café, but on radio and television broadcast logs that they source from APRA.

Unlike the aforementioned agencies, PPCA do not and never have had the ability or the resources to actually survey what type of music retailers and businesses play in their establishments. And, if you were a small business or retailer who played music for public consumption, for the benefit of your clientele, you would have far, far better things to do with your days than fill out some f*cking form listing the titles of songs and names of artists whose compact discs you just happened to take for spin on any given day.

Why would you bother? Realising this, the PPCA simply assume that you are playing music that comes under the protection of their licences and hit you with a bill, and then distribute the licence fees they collect to artists whose music you’d probably no sooner play in your business than you’d hammer nails into your genitals for fun. Like Slim Dusty, or Normie Rowe, or Frank Ifield for example (Frank’s a lovely guy, by the way – I had occasion to speak with him often when I worked in the music industry).

These individuals receive radio airplay. You will not be hearing their tunes any time soon in some stylish café or upmarket restaurant.

And the PPCA smugly assume that, simply because you have the capacity to seat 120 people in your venue that, at each and every sitting, 120 people will be there. I don’t know about anyone else, but I have rarely, if ever, gone into a restaurant or café at any time and found every table taken. And, if you are talking about a high-end establishment for which you may be paying about a hundred bucks for a feed, you damn well don’t want your ears assaulted by whatever crap the waiter or the sous-chef picked up for ten bucks from J&B the other week. You’re there for the food, and the owners and the head chefs know that.

And, if you were running a 120 seat restaurant, would you rather spend 19 grand a year on an apprentice chef or a re-fit or hand it over to these corporate copyright criminals so that they can pay it to a record company and an artist whose music you’ve never played and never will?

The solution to this is simple.

Do not play any music that falls under the protection of a PPCA licence.

The United States is one country whose recordings don’t. France is another. And China.*

However, the PPCA sneakily state on their website that …

In order to determine whether a particular sound recording is protected or not the following information will be required:

– who “made” the recording, and if it was a record company, their place of incorporation;

– the place where the track was recorded (i.e. the location of the recording studio);

– the release date of the track, the country of first release and if released in Australia, the date of first release here; and

– the names of everyone who performed on the recordings and their citizenship or residency at the date the recording was made.

As if anyone in their right mind would bother. This is how the PPCA manage, and have managed for so long, to con so many small (and large) businesses to hand over fistfuls of cash for f*ck all.

Don’t fall for it.

To resist the PPCA scam, any and all small business owners who may play music should cease and desist immediately and not renew their licence until this rubbish organisation comes to its senses.

Any and all small business owners should contact their industry associations to lobby, and lobby furiously against these proposals. Contact your local Federal Member of Parliament. Email the Federal Attorney-General.

I have always been, and will always be, an enthusiastic advocate for the right of musicians, composers, visual artists, film-makers, actors and authors to be appropriately remunerated for the use of their work, for their talents and their contributions to our society and our culture. It’s a damnably difficult way to make a living at the best of times and, more often than not, it’s more a case of “right place, right time” than any actual talent that will see these individuals earn a sustainable income.

But I see no legitimate reason whatsoever to pay these individuals or (especially) their corporate representatives a bucketload of cash if their work is not actually being used in any substantial manner by anyone.

It is also interesting to note, by the way, that the CEO and the Manager of PPCA (Stephen Peach and Lynne Small), an (allegedly) non-profit association, are also the CEO and General Manager of … ARIA, the Australian Recording Industry Association, who represent the interests of Universal, Warner Bros, Sony and EMI among others.

Which horse is dragging which cart, do you think?

Also, in the interests of full disclosure, I was employed by ARIA/PPCA for 10 years.

*The countries whose recordings do fall under PPCA licences are: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Fiji, Finland, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Holy See, Honduras, Iceland, India, Ireland, India, Ireland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mauritius, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Venezuala.

8 Responses

  1. First thing I’d if I owned a restuarant etc. is to tell PPCA to get stuffed.

    The second would be to checkout local musicians, recording studios etc. who I’m sure wouldn’t mind their music being played for reasonable consideration.

  2. Looks a mite dodgy to me.

    BTW, Ross, better watch out yourself, mate. You comment:

    “But PPCA’s naked grab for cash, for money for nothing…….”

    If you’d added “and their cheques for free” Mark Knopfler and the boys might wanna have a go for breach of copyright or somesuch.

    This intellectual property stuff makes my brain hurt.

    Reminds me of the time Warner Bros had a go at The Marx Bros for using the word “Casablanca” in the title of their film “A Night in Casablanca” (released a year or so after Warners had released “Casablanca” with Bogey and Bergman), apparently on the basis that “they saw it first”.

    The Marx Bos didn’t bother with lawyers, but got Groucho to respond to ther letter of demand. You ought to read his response sometime.

    It’s a classic.

    Groucho refers to the threatening letter being no-doubt the product of “some over-eager ferret-faced shyster, serving a brief apprenticeship in Warner’s Legal Department” before saying that “nothing should be allowed to come between us brothers” and noting that they couldn’t pssibly be serious. Because if they were fair-dinkum the Marx Bros would feel compelled to counter-claim for Warners’ use of the word “Brothers” in their corporate name on the basis that they saw it first and had been using the moniker for a whole lot longer than Warners had even existed.

    Yessiree, a classic.

    Apparently Warners never responded, but let the whole thing drop.

  3. Evan – Yes, as a Marx Bros. disciple, I’m familiar with that Warner silliness.

    Daphon – Retailers should switch to radio only from now on. With the imminent arrival of digital radio, there will be dedicated genre stations available, and all the retailer would need is an APRA licence to keep music in their store if they thought it necessary.

  4. I smell business opportunity 😉 Someone needs to market PPCA-free music, and guarantee indemnity (and provide pre-canned paperwork, ideally computer-inidividualised so that the PPCA can’t mass-process it).

  5. I might’ve owned a restaurant at one stage, and I might’ve received a letter demanding that I pay an annual fee to some Australian company for the privilege of playing music in my hypothetical establishment.

    I vaguely recall thinking that they could possibly get f**ked seeing as I didn’t play any Australian music in my hypothetical restaurant, and in fact I might have only have played music that I purchased from Asia, if in fact any of this is true at all.

  6. Lotharsson – There is one label I recall from many years ago, an “ambient” music label, that specifically stated to the PPCA that it did not want its music covered by their licences and that retailers were free to play it. However, this was an independently distributed label, and only an independent could do that: a small label distributed by a major would not have that option. Individual artists under a contract to any label distributed by a major would not have that option, even if they wanted to.

  7. Greedy entertainment companies? Some things never change, eh Ross.

    How much of this assertive behaviour do you think is influenced by the recent sharp decline music sales?

    The disclosure is an extremely novel approach for the – cough, cough – entertainment industry, good for you!

  8. I run and own a small café. Music is the only thing we have to pay for twice. (Three times if you count both licences).

    Everything in the café was created by someone. The artwork, the paint colour, the tables and chairs, sugar jars, forks, literally everything. Music is the only thing I have to pay for twice. Not only do I pay to buy the recording but I also have to pay again, to use it.

    Most creative people are happy to just get paid once. Regardless of whether you use the purchase for commercially or domestically, in fact they don’t even ask.

    We will cease to play recorded music of our choosing and instead use digital radio. The letter we got from the PPCA was superficial and supercilious. Every other supplier we have apologises or explains why they need to increase their prices – inflation, increased costs, exchange rates etc. Not PPCA its 2000% up and no reason at all.

    PPCA can get stuffed, they are just a bunch of money grubbing bastards. Jim.

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