Published on 18 - October - 2011
Hardware store wins fight against music licence bodyHudgies Hardware in Suffolk has won an ongoing battle with music licensing body Phonographic Performance (PPL) after the company tried to make him pay for a licence he didn't need.
Hudgies owner David Sleath was just one of several business owners targeted earlier this year by the company, which is responsible for licensing the use of recorded music on behalf of performers and record companies.
Mr Sleath doesn't play music in his store during opening hours, only switching the radio on after shutting up shop to catch the news headlines while totting up the day's takings. He was therefore surprised to receive an invoice from PPL for a licence costing £199.
"Right from the start I have made it very clear to PPL that my shop does not play music in public," he told DIY Week. "It's a hardware shop, and I don't feel it's appropriate. I'm not playing copyright music to enhance my business in any way. I'm not running a nightclub or a pub."
He refused to pay, and was then contacted by a debt collecting agency. When he got his lawyers involved, PPL offered to discount the license to £100, but Mr Sleath continued to fight the charge, which he deemed unacceptable.
But, miraculously, just days after his story was featured in The Mail on Sunday, PPL called him up with a grovelling apology and a promise to withdraw all invoices. While Mr Sleath is "delighted" with this result, his legal team are still fighting to recover their legal costs from PPL, and there may still be other businesses out there who are paying for licenses they don't actually need, he says.
"I don't have an issue with organisations which play music having licenses, but there are many of us just playing the radio after hours for a bit of company."
He adds: "I have been subjected to a lot of aggravation, but I'm not intimidated by the legal process, it doesn't faze me. There are people out there who, faced with these letters and calls from debt collectors, would be pretty stressed about it. They may think it's cheaper to pay for one of these licenses than it is to fight it. I run a very successful business and I have the means to pay good lawyers. Today I'm basking in the warm glow of success, but it's because I was prepared to fight them. Don't mess with Hudgies Hardware!"
At the beginning of 2010, PPL lost its appeal against a ruling that licence fee increases it had imposed were excessive. In 2005 the company pushed charges up dramatically, with some businesses seeing their costs more than double overnight.
The BRC said the decision would save retailers £5m a year, and also won them a £20m refund of the excessive charges they had paid over the past five years.
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