BMUG spokesman Ben Fairn
BMUG spokesman Ben Fairn

The Bermuda Music Users’ Group (“BMUG”) is advising local companies to carefully consider any licensing agreements that are proposed to their organization by the UK’s Performance Rights Society (“PRS”), which in June 2013 was granted a permit, to operate in Bermuda.

PRS’ current campaign includes an expanded target list including Government entities, schools, charities, concert promoters and any business that uses copyrighted music to entertain their workers or clients even if it is just on their answering service. 

The BMUG’s primary concern is that PRS is attempting to impose UK terms and licensing rates on the Bermuda market without full disclosure and transparency or consultation with Bermuda industry stakeholders.

BMUG spokesman Ben Fairn said: “We believe it is equally appropriate for BMUG to form a collective to negotiate rates and terms that will be in the best interest of Bermuda residents that stand to pay millions to a foreign agency with virtually no income circulating back to Bermuda artists. There are currently more than a hundred local artists that compose and perform their music here on the island, and they have never been approached by PRS in their lifetime, and yet the fees being collected on their behalf go directly to London. This has been going on for many years, and so you would understand why there is concern.”

PRS has also indicated to some firms and charities that they will offer them protection from retroactive fees if they sign immediately. 

This threat of an unknown financial liability, to force acceptance of their UK published fee structure shows their intent to take advantage of local organizations which presume they must accept what appears to be approved terms and fees, and its not. 

Karen Buse, international director, PRS for Music has stated previously: “Music is the lifeblood of our PRS for Music songwriters, composers and publishers members. 

Without royalty payments they would be unable to continue making the songs that millions of customers and staff enjoy. 

“Our music licence is easy to obtain — like paying your water or gas bill — and makes the use of music legitimate. We have a long standing relationship with Bermuda and it is one that we are excited to continue and grow.”

Meeting

The Bermuda Music Users Group urges any business owner, charity, school, church and organization interested in learning more about this topic to attend their next meeting to be held Wednesday, November 27 at 5:30 pm at the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce. 

At that time BMUG will provide an update and discuss the formation of industry specific subcommittees to consider their collective bargaining position. 


BMUG Press release

The Bermuda Music Users’ Group (“BMUG”) is advising local companies to carefully consider any licensing agreements that are proposed to their organization by the UK’s Performance Rights Society (“PRS”), which in June 2013 was granted a permit, to operate in Bermuda.

BMUG spokesman Mr. Ben Fairn stated “BMUG cannot advise local companies on whether they should or should not sign a licensing agreement with PRS. BMUG is however advising Bermuda companies and organizations that may require licensing agreements for the use of copyrighted music to exercise extreme caution when considering any license fees proposed by PRS.

BMUG believes that Bermuda is being targeted as part of PRS’ growth strategy as evidenced by objectives listed in the International Licensing Services Manager job description on their web site which reads in part “to drive the maximization amount of income through the society network and via new business opportunities outside the UK to meet the ‘licensing, collections and tariffs’ objectives of the International Growth Strategy.”

In the past PRS has had few licenses in Bermuda, primarily targeting broadcasters, hotels and large restaurant chains. They now seem intent on exploiting the terms of the 2004 Copyright Act, which requires Bermuda as a British Overseas Territory its companies and organizations that use copyrighted music to purchase a license from PRS.

PRS’ current campaign includes an expanded target list including Government entities, schools, charities, concert promoters and any business that uses copyrighted music to entertain their workers or clients even if it is just on their answering service.

The BMUG’s primary concern is that PRS is attempting to impose UK terms and licensing rates on the Bermuda market without full disclosure and transparency or consultation with Bermuda industry stakeholders.

PRS has the right to license users of copyrighted music in Bermuda, but there is no requirement that Bermuda business or charities must accept the rates or fees requested or applied in the UK.

In the instance where a Bermuda business or charity does not agree with the rates or terms proposed by PRS, that business or charity has the right to have the rates, fees and terms reviewed by the Copyright Tribunal, a Government board that has yet to be convened.

PRS has also indicated to some firms and charities that they will offer them protection from retroactive fees if they sign immediately.

This threat of an unknown financial liability, to force acceptance of their UK published fee structure shows their intent to take advantage of local organizations which presume they must accept what appears to be approved terms and fees, and its not.

Again, BMUG is looking for a professional approach and proper transparency and disclosure.

“We believe it is equally appropriate for BMUG to form a collective to negotiate rates and terms that will be in the best interest of Bermuda residents that stand to pay millions to a foreign agency with virtually no income circulating back to Bermuda artists. There are currently more than a hundred local artists that compose and perform their music here on the island, and they have never been approached by PRS in their lifetime, and yet the fees being collected on their behalf go directly to

London. This has been going on for many years, and so you would understand why there is concern” Says Ben Fairn

If in fact this is the beginning of a major licensing campaign of expanded scope and potential new cost to Bermuda businesses, BMUG would suggest that PRS should stand down from its divide and conquer approach to individual businesses, apply some transparency and disclosure and work with the BMUG to negotiate how terms and License fees will be applied in the Bermuda market.

The Bermuda Music Users Group urges any business owner, charity, school, church and organization interested in learning more about this topic to attend their next meeting to be held Wednesday, 27th of November at 5:30 PM at the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce. At that time BMUG will provide an update and discuss the formation of industry specific subcommittees to consider their collective bargaining position.