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Sandra Burt gets some Satisfaction.
October 21, 2009 9:19 PM   Subscribe

"It's ridiculous. What's the world coming to when Big Brother wants to charge you for singing a wee tune?", Sandra Burt said. So, Big Brother thought about it a bit, and decided, well, maybe she's right.
posted by flapjax at midnite (34 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
1) I thought this was going to be about the vapid television show, and someone refusing to stop singing on screen

2) They deserve plaudits for this move- the flowers and the "we made a big mistake" move. This is, after all, what I (and a fair number of my perpetually outraged brethren on Metafilter) often wish the individuals working for big companies would do: act with some basic sense, decency, and humanity. And... it looks like they did exactly that.

So, for whatever else it's worth- this was a praiseworthy move on their part, and I applaud it.
posted by hincandenza at 9:32 PM on October 21, 2009


i'm with hincandenza, and yet....I know this is XTRA COOT anecdotal stuff here...shit, this is still demonstrative of bad laws; Laws that are bad because they attack the inherently useful quality of media: its share-ability/malleability.

Songs aren't meant to be caged. They're supposed to set birds free.
posted by es_de_bah at 9:37 PM on October 21, 2009


the idea of a 56 year old woman singing the rolling stones is enough to ...

*looks at mick jagger*

.... eh, never mind
posted by pyramid termite at 9:50 PM on October 21, 2009 [8 favorites]


PRS aren't exactly strangers to controversy. Wikipedia summarizes their most egregious missteps. These are the same people who regard it as 'public performance' if they call a business and can hear music playing in the background. If they cut that shit out, that would be a truly praiseworthy move. Sending flowers is just damage control.
posted by Ritchie at 10:02 PM on October 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


hincandenza -- that, or this could set off quite possibly one of the worst PR techniques EVAR. Corporation A does something incredibly stupid -- let's say, a healthcare company denies a leukemia claim on the basis that genetic inferiority is a preexisting condition* -- waits for the public outrage, then re-accepts the claim, showering the patient with $100 worth of flowers and balloons. Instant PR win!

*Fun Fact: I had to try really hard to come up with something so ludicrous that it was obvious hyperbole. With the health insurance industry, this was not an easy task.
posted by spiderskull at 10:07 PM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


They're supposed to set birds free.

FREE BIRD!*

*brought to you by CAPS LOCK DAY

posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:13 PM on October 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is it heckling when someone shouts "freebird!", or is it just fun?
posted by Meatbomb at 10:19 PM on October 21, 2009


Fun heckling.

Or, "feckling".
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:21 PM on October 21, 2009


Where are all the people who think that 'stealing' music is wrong who were so vocal over on the recent Lily Allen post. I want to hear some arguments from those defenders of the music industry status quo. Isn't it blatantly obvious that this woman is stealing music without permission?
posted by motty at 10:38 PM on October 21, 2009


This would have been so easy to get around. Have the radio on but cover up any lights that might indicate that it's turned on and turn the volume down to zero. Nobody will have any idea that you're stealing music.
posted by tellurian at 10:57 PM on October 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Like the guitar player who said, "I'm gonna tune all my strings to the same note, then you won't know what I'm playin'"
posted by carping demon at 11:11 PM on October 21, 2009


The Daily Mailses! It burns us, precious!
posted by EatTheWeak at 11:13 PM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Like the guitar player who said, "I'm gonna tune all my strings to the same note, then you won't know what I'm playin'"

I'll know. He's playing Ostrich guitar. Probably All Tomorrow's Parties.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:24 PM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


> his is, after all, what I (and a fair number of my perpetually outraged brethren on Metafilter) often wish the individuals working for big companies would do: act with some basic sense, decency, and humanity. And... it looks like they did exactly that.

Meanwhile, on AskMe, the poor woman would be inundated with "THAT'S ANNOYING PLEASE STOP" for making a joyful sound in a public place.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:52 PM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ritchie: These are the same people who regard it as 'public performance' if they call a business and can hear music playing in the background.

That's how this case started - they made the owner get rid of the radio, so Ms Burt started singing, and they came down on that, too.

Motty: I want to hear some arguments from those defenders of the music industry status quo. Isn't it blatantly obvious that this woman is stealing music without permission?

With respect, I think it's possible to disagree both with [unauthorised] filesharing, and with the PRS approach in this situation (which is clearly ridiculous). In the first case, there's at least an argument that you're copying an album that you'd otherwise have bought*, and thus depriving the artist. And in the case of Lily Allen, you've got someone who really doesn't want her work copied. With the second, they're telling people not to play the radio - but radio is a broadcast medium that's intended to be heard by as many people as possible, that artists and record companies want to be involved in, so it seems absurd to prevent people from playing the radio.

And in the one case you end up with a physical artifact (the music files) that's as good as the original CD; in the other, you get the transitory experience of listening to the music. It feels different somehow, though maybe that's just pre-internet thinking on my part.

*[I'm kinda arguing devil's advocate here; I'm in the camp that says filesharing is good and should be encouraged because it helps people find new music, and that I'll put money towards artists that I like and discover through filesharing; so I think Lily Allen is wrong and that filesharing helps artists - but OTOH if she doesn't want people to share her stuff, maybe they should respect that.]
posted by Infinite Jest at 12:21 AM on October 22, 2009


Awww... that's so sweeet!

(Besides, I hear they're too busy sueing the barbershop down the street.)
posted by markkraft at 1:52 AM on October 22, 2009


....there's an organization in England that classifies background music as performance?

Man. If you sent someone from PRS here to the United States, the ubiquitous Muzak would make their heads explode.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:05 AM on October 22, 2009


Man. If you sent someone from PRS here to the United States, the ubiquitous Muzak would make their heads explode.

Er... ASCAP and BMI are directly equivalent US versions of PRS. If the muzak features established artists' songs (rather than royalty free) there's a fair chance a licence fee is being collected from the store or restaurant's owners.

(although there appear to be exceptions that apply to small stores and small sound systems, which would probably apply in this case)
posted by cillit bang at 3:00 AM on October 22, 2009


We had a bar here in town that required all bands to play only original music, so they wouldn't have to pay the ASCAP fee. Funny thing, ASCAP still tried to muscle them. The owner held out for several years, but eventually gave in.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 4:29 AM on October 22, 2009


To have the enforcement arm of the music industry admit to a mistake, especially since t's been been acting like the post-9/11 C.I.A. since Napster's birth, is kinda breath-taking.
posted by jeffen at 5:29 AM on October 22, 2009


Oh, and remember to be careful about singing happy birthday in a restaurant or in a park or other "public" area. Some PRS member might be about seeking to recoup royalties.

I feel this highlights the idiocy of our current intellectual property laws, the PRS are legally obliged to go after this woman, but all level of common decency says they shouldn't. That shows that the legal structure is wrong, not the woman singing.
posted by knapah at 6:03 AM on October 22, 2009


Meanwhile, on AskMe, the poor woman would be inundated with "THAT'S ANNOYING PLEASE STOP" for making a joyful sound in a public place.

Well, not to take your snark too seriously, but yeah, singing in public is annoying. If I don't like looking at someone I can look somewhere else, and if I don't like the way someone smells I can move out of smell range. But I can't turn off my ears, and the noise range is so much larger than the smell range that it effectively fills up a public space.

I mean, obviously PRS was dumb for insisting she couldn't do it, and I'm not saying there oughtta be a law. But if I shopped there I would be gritting my teeth.
posted by marginaliana at 6:48 AM on October 22, 2009


But if I shopped there I would be gritting my teeth.

Hey, you never know. Maybe she's, you know... good!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:55 AM on October 22, 2009


Which makes me wonder... how long will it be before this lady makes it onto British TV? If she plays this right, she might just be able to say goodbye to putting canned peas on the shelf! At least for a while, anyway.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:58 AM on October 22, 2009


I want to hear some arguments from those defenders of the music industry status quo. Isn't it blatantly obvious that this woman is stealing music without permission?

I think a person singing primarily for their own enjoyment, even if it happens to be in earshot of others, ought to be considered "fair use" (or whatever the UK equivalent of fair use in the US is). Whether it actually is or not, I don't know, but it ought to be.

Now, if the store was encouraging the singing specifically to attract customers ("come hear our own Sandra Burt sing 3-5 p.m. Tuesday!") , or charging a fee to hear Burt sing, I'd be on the side that said PRS could stop it if the store hadn't secured permission. Someone singing to herself for her own enjoyment (possibly to the delight, possibly to the annoyance of others), not so much.

You know, it is possible to take an intermediate, logically consistent position somewhere between the extremes of "no copyright EVAR!!!!" and "pay a license before you even think about a copyrighted work!!!"
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:39 AM on October 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


Crap. Now I've got Freebird stuck in my head playing over and over, and I guess I'm going to get charged for it as well.
posted by MtDewd at 9:06 AM on October 22, 2009


ASCAP and BMI are directly equivalent US versions of PRS. If the muzak features established artists' songs (rather than royalty free) there's a fair chance a licence fee is being collected from the store or restaurant's owners. (although there appear to be exceptions that apply to small stores and small sound systems, which would probably apply in this case)

...Not that I disbelieve you. But I kind of don't get why that would be the case. It's...background music. You're not at the establishment to listen to music, you're at the establishment to get kitty litter and juice or whatever.

again, I totally believe you when you say that ASCAP does this; I'm just not understanding ASCAP's logic for WHY they do this.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:18 AM on October 22, 2009


We had a bar here in town that required all bands to play only original music, so they wouldn't have to pay the ASCAP fee.

I came out of the woods awhile back to play an improv concert in the big city (Portland ME) and, while we were setting up for the show, happened to run through the beginning of some song (Eleanor Rigby, as best as I can recall) on our Moog just to see if it was working. At which point people came running over to me, all excited, saying “Didn't you see the sign? You’ll put the place out of business!”

What power, in the hands of a guy who doesn't even play keyboards all that well...
posted by LeLiLo at 10:59 AM on October 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Not that I disbelieve you. But I kind of don't get why that would be the case. It's...background music. You're not at the establishment to listen to music, you're at the establishment to get kitty litter and juice or whatever. "

What ever the shaky justification I know restaurants that play music, even broadcast music, in Canada pay fees to SOCAN. It's on the order of a couple grand a year for the organization I worked for though I don't know the formula (SOCAN's site is a flash driven monstrosity that won't even load navigation for me). Even connecting a radio to your PBX to deliver music to people on hold requires paying fees. For music that the radio station already payed to broadcast.
posted by Mitheral at 12:13 PM on October 22, 2009


It's...background music. You're not at the establishment to listen to music, you're at the establishment to get kitty litter and juice or whatever

But the only reason they play music is to make you feel better about buying kitty litter because you're hearing a song you like while doing so. ASCAP's artists are providing a service for the business owner.

I don't see it as any less logical than any other licensing scenario.
posted by cillit bang at 12:51 PM on October 22, 2009


In all territories which have broadcast radio, the station is the one that has to pay to use copyrighted materials, not the listener. That's the whole point. That's because there is a generally understood law (certainly in the US and Canada, and I would have to assume the UK as well) that the airwaves are "owned" by everyone.

Radio stations pay money to "lease" bandwidth, and also pay what's known as a "blanket license" to all the known performance rights groups. In the US that's ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and a couple of smaller ones. In the UK that's PRS.

Stations pay these fees back - and also pay their employees - by selling advertising time.

The point: what PRS is saying is utter nonsense. Radio, for listeners, is supposed to be free. Playing a radio is not illegal.

Singing a song? That is not a "performance" unless she is specifically saying "I will only sing if you pay me 10 quid." She's not doing that. You don't even have to buy anything in her store.

That PRS site has one of the most ridiculous FAQ's I've ever seen [my favorite section].

Even if you work for yourself, in your own home, alone, you apparently need a license to play any music.

What decade is this again?!

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posted by adamd1 at 12:51 PM on October 22, 2009


Singing a song? That is not a "performance" unless she is specifically saying "I will only sing if you pay me 10 quid." She's not doing that. You don't even have to buy anything in her store.

Although I agree with you in spirit, if the UK law is anything like the US law, a performance can be as simple as singing a song in a place of business whether you're charging a cover or not. Since nobody is obliged to buy anything in her business whether she sings or not, that part doesn't really matter anyway. But the law should have exemptions of this type of "performance," because it's clearly a personal expression by an employee rather than a business strategy to have music driving sales.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:52 PM on October 22, 2009


If you sent someone from PRS here to the United States, the ubiquitous Muzak would make their heads explode. [....] If the muzak features established artists' songs (rather than royalty free) there's a fair chance a licence fee is being collected [...]

Er, you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
posted by hattifattener at 10:09 PM on October 22, 2009


WTF? I've used it once in response someone else's comment. And the modern Muzak corporation specializes in compiling playlists of pop music for use in stores, a development there's been one or more MeFi posts about.

This "correcting other people", I do not think it means what you think it means.
posted by cillit bang at 1:10 AM on October 23, 2009


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