The recording industry here in the U.S. has never been shy about going to extremes to defend the rights of copyright owners. Who can forget the lawsuit against the Girl Scouts of America for unlicensed singing of Happy Birthday around the campfire? There are lawsuits against the deceased and computer-less elderly for file sharing and $40,000 fines for having Lez Zeppelin play a few songs at your local establishment without proper ASCAP/BMI licensing.
So it might come as a surprise to hear that our friends across the pond in England might actually have it worse with the Performing Rights Society (or PRS). First was their demand a few years ago that guitar shop owners pay thousands of pounds in annual music licensing fees for all the Jimmy Page and "Smoke on the Water" riffs that aspiring guitarists will play as they try out new instruments in music shops.
And now, amazingly, the Kwik-Fit car repair company is being sued by the PRS for £200,000 in damages for unlicensed "public performances" of copyrighted music. Their crime? Allowing mechanics to play their music so loudly over the din of machinery in the garage that both customers and colleagues could hear it. According to the BBC:
"The allegations are of a widespread and consistent picture emerging over many years whereby routine copyright infringement in the workplace was, or inferentially must have been, known to and 'authorized' or 'permitted' by local and central management."
On the bright side, if you live in the UK and your neighbors won't turn down their music this brings up some interesting options.