Pay to play: Concert promoter Tony Brannon said he had no qualms forking over royalty fees for the Lennon Tribute Concert last year, but many business use music by artists like Michael Jackson without permission in their commercials, which is basically stealing it. *File photo by Kageaki Smith
Pay to play: Concert promoter Tony Brannon said he had no qualms forking over royalty fees for the Lennon Tribute Concert last year, but many business use music by artists like Michael Jackson without permission in their commercials, which is basically stealing it. *File photo by Kageaki Smith

Businesses all across Bermuda could soon start having to pay for the music they broadcast to clients.

The Performing Rights Society has stepped up its effort to collect money from Bermudian stores and companies that play copyrighted music.

This includes a wide range of businesses from hair salons to DJs to supermarkets as well as radio and TV stations.

Inter-Island Communications (parent company of radio stations HOTT and Magic) co-owner Scott Pearman told the Bermuda Sun that copyright should be respected, but the bigger concern was how much the fees would be for various businesses.

As a result, the Bermuda Music Users Group has been formed to deal with the issue.

“The reality is they are going to target what they view as the deep pocket and high content music users, which is the radio and television stations and work their way down through retail stores and Government.

“Everybody understands our responsibility of copyright as well as rewarding the creators of copyrighted material. That is not an issue for anybody.”

He said what is at issue is the cost. 

“It is essentially going to be a new taxation on all businesses that use music.”

He said that even applies to businesses that use music on its answering machines. 

“This could potentially be a massive tax paid out of Bermuda.”

Mr Pearman said a concern is to make sure that Bermudian artists get paid their due.

“We haven’t seen Bermudian artists compensated for the performances of their works on island. When we start to dialogue we’re going to be looking at it from both perspectives. PRS has historically been very aggressive in going door-to-door in demands and taking businesses to court. They’ve been charging hair salons 700 pounds for playing music in their facilities.”

He added: “We’re going to try to negotiate terms that are best for all businesses.”

Mr Pearman said companies like Lindo’s that might have a music station on over the loudspeaker should not have to pay the fee as the radio company has already paid for it.

He also said firms in Bermuda should not have to pay the same price as businesses in the UK as the market is smaller.

Joanne MacPhee, executive director, Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, said PRS has reached out to them as well as several of its members. 

She said: “It has been almost two years since PRS was actively in the Bermuda market and there is still a great deal of concern about their expectations now they have established an actual presence in Bermuda.

Retail stores

 “This is not just an issue for broadcasters and show promoters, PRS is empowered to collect a fee from anyone who broadcasts music in a public place, whether it is a restaurant, a retail store, hotel or a car garage.  So it is absolutely imperative that we get this right.”

Ms MacPhee said two meetings have already been held with regard to this and it has spoken with the Registrar of Companies. 

“It is likely the matter will end up before the Copyright Tribunal, once it is enacted by Parliament under the terms of the Copyright and Designs Act 2004. In the meantime we will endeavor to keep our membership informed on the situation.”