Friday, November 09, 2007

Turn Your Radio Down

In Today's article a UK auto-body chain is being sued for copyright infringement.

How did they violate copyright law? They played the radio so loud that the public could hear it.

Normally this is where I'd rant about the idiocy and greed of the recording industry, and use that as a reason to incite you to "stick it to the man" and download music using your favourite peer-to-peer file sharing system. But the article speaks for itself. Heck, what I've told you speaks for itself.


Anonymous said...

I wouldn't say it was cut and dried...If they actually did allow radios to play in the work place, even if it wasn't head office policy, then they are probably liable. In many countries legislation allows agencies to collect royalties on behalf of the composers/artists when there is background music in the workplace.

See for example,


Andrew said...

I think I mentioned this once before, a long time ago on this blog. I guess it's time to repeat it.

When I talk about legal issues on this blog, I'm rarely talking about what's legal and what's not. The courts will decide that. Different courts in different jurisdictions will decide different things. And as can be seen quite frequently, laws don't always coincide with what's right and wrong.

No. Here I talk about what's reasonable versus what's ridiculous.

In this case, radio stations pay money to spew music out onto the air in the electromagnetic field. Anyone within range, with a tuner can tune in.

Radio, by nature, is public. Pure and simple. You don't need a license to own a radio receiver. Any kid with a two-bit electronics kit from any hobby store can make a radio. (Didn't Spock make one from tin foil and egg cartons?)

I suppose if the signal was encoded, that would be a different story. But that would be about circumventing an encoding system, not copyright infringement.

Who's to say that everyone in the area wasn't listening to that radio station anyway?

But the recording industry has gotten it in their heads that suing is a good business model.

Suing, especially suing your clients, is NEVER a good business model.

I do see one possibility that would make this story look not so ridiculous. If the amount of royalties a radio station pays is determined by the size of it's audience, then a growth in that audience number would mean higher royalties. Perhaps that radio station was nearing the top of it's audience bracket and the 20 extra people or so who heard that station as a result of a garage playing it too loud was enough to cause the radio station to have to pay higher royalties. But then you'd go after the radio station, not the garage.

It seems as though copyright holders should receive compensation for their work being played. You pay it when you buy a CD. The radio station pays even more to play to a larger audience. You can't play your CD publicly because then that robs the copyright holders the appropriate compensation. But the radio station pays them with the understanding that "This is going on the air, and we don't know the exact number of people who will hear it, but we hope it will be lots!"

Copyright holders receive their compensation that way. No one should have to pay extra to turn up the volume on something that's already public.

If anyone should go after the garage, it should be the radio station. One could argue their signal is owned by them, and special permission should be required to play it loud. I somehow doubt a radio station would do that.

Anonymous said...


Are you sure? In the UK you have to own a license to have a television set that picks up television stations off the airwaves... maybe it is similar to that. Just because you can pick up a signal doesn't mean you are entitled to pick it up. Just a thought.

Andrew said...

To Anonymous:

I'm sorry, you must have accidentally replied to the wrong blog. We don't talk about what is the law here, we talk about what's reasonable versus what's ridiculous. Your comment seems out of place.

What I really would like to know is:
Do you like your job? Why, or why not?

Anonymous said...

The problem is that *reasonable* implies that there is some reason in your argument, and there are a lot of woolly statements, like "radio, by nature, is public". In any case the principles of law are based on reason and reasonable precedent.

Suing *is* acceptable if someone steals your intellectual property.

Just because someone broadcasts a signal doesn't mean that you can necessarily record it or rebroadcast it in a public setting. Use of a radio broadcast comes with implied rights for the listener.

I think the problem is that radio by nature is for private, not public, consumption. If you rebroadcast it in a public space, that is a commercial use of the music, so you should be liable for fees.


Andrew said...


I'm curious about a couple of things.

1) Do I know you? If I don't how did you find this blog?

2) Why do you like the jobs you've had that you like, and why didn't you like the jobs you've had that you didn't like?

I asked that recently on my blog, and got a very low response. I'm just curious. You don't necessarily have to tell me what the job was, just how you felt about it and why.