Essential reading for retailers and suppliers in the home improvement market

Hardware store wins fight against music licence body

Published: 18 October 2011
Hudgies Hardware in Suffolk has won an ongoing battle with music licensing body Phonographic Performance (PPL) after the company tried to make him pay for a licence he didn't need.
Hardware store wins fight against music licence body
Hudgies owner David Sleath was just one of several business owners targeted earlier this year by the company, which is responsible for licensing the use of recorded music on behalf of performers and record companies.

Mr Sleath doesn't play music in his store during opening hours, only switching the radio on after shutting up shop to catch the news headlines while totting up the day's takings. He was therefore surprised to receive an invoice from PPL for a licence costing £199.

"Right from the start I have made it very clear to PPL that my shop does not play music in public," he told DIY Week. "It's a hardware shop, and I don't feel it's appropriate. I'm not playing copyright music to enhance my business in any way. I'm not running a nightclub or a pub."

He refused to pay, and was then contacted by a debt collecting agency. When he got his lawyers involved, PPL offered to discount the license to £100, but Mr Sleath continued to fight the charge, which he deemed unacceptable.

But, miraculously, just days after his story was featured in The Mail on Sunday, PPL called him up with a grovelling apology and a promise to withdraw all invoices. While Mr Sleath is "delighted" with this result, his legal team are still fighting to recover their legal costs from PPL, and there may still be other businesses out there who are paying for licenses they don't actually need, he says.

"I don't have an issue with organisations which play music having licenses, but there are many of us just playing the radio after hours for a bit of company."

He adds: "I have been subjected to a lot of aggravation, but I'm not intimidated by the legal process, it doesn't faze me. There are people out there who, faced with these letters and calls from debt collectors, would be pretty stressed about it. They may think it's cheaper to pay for one of these licenses than it is to fight it. I run a very successful business and I have the means to pay good lawyers. Today I'm basking in the warm glow of success, but it's because I was prepared to fight them. Don't mess with Hudgies Hardware!"

At the beginning of 2010, PPL lost its appeal against a ruling that licence fee increases it had imposed were excessive. In 2005 the company pushed charges up dramatically, with some businesses seeing their costs more than double overnight.

The BRC said the decision would save retailers £5m a year, and also won them a £20m refund of the excessive charges they had paid over the past five years.


23 August 2019 09:26:30

We are a small business of 5 people who watch the news for 30 minutes a day on lunch ( 4 days a week) and have been sent a bill for £900!!!??? This is just outrageous!!  Should we pay ????

11 June 2019 12:12:05

I am treasurer or a sports and social club and have a £724 bill from PPLPRS. Part of the bill is for dance clases, but a lot of the cost is for having TVs in the club. The club rebranded last year and now only plays SKY sports or BT sport, no music is played and no other channels watched, do i need PPLPRS license for the TVs ?

05 April 2019 11:43:04

Received a call from PRS/PPL 3 weeks ago. Told them we only play our own composed music, our shop is less than 650 sq feet. Immediately received an email invoice for £841.00 (!!) we have received an email from a debt collection agency - after only 2 weeks!  Who are these thieving morons? My solicitor says it looks like a scam and to ignore it.  Does anyone have any experience of ignoring these twats?

26 February 2019 10:43:57

We have an Italian tracttoria 4m by 4m and have to pay both PRS and PPL to max 10 ppl a day.   we even play Italian radio station but  the UK collect it at a cost of £220.  It stinks why can't we pay usa or italy to cut the greedy uk company out.   Surly if you have a license to play music i does'nt matter to who you pay.  in the USA radio is free to smaller areas and they have a few companys that keep it lower BMI ASCAP and SESAC are the 3 biggist

31 January 2019 11:25:30

I'm trying to find out exactly who PRS/PPL is and what it their legal status, who appoints them, what is their turn over, what percentage of revenue goes to admin and what to performers,  what do directors get paid etc . I'd like to hear from performers who atually recieve fees from PRS/PPL

04 October 2018 16:53:07
Mr Thomas

i was told if premises under 2,000 sq foot theres no fee 

is this correct

17 September 2018 08:50:54

i recieved a phone call from them about 6 weeks ago asking if i have any tv radios ect in any rooms of a guest house and i said yes all covered by tv licenses only to be informed the tv license only covers viewing of the tv and not sound 

never recieved a paper bill just email asking for £931 95 and if payment not recieved within 7 days a debt recovery will be filed against me and my goods could be removed is this legal?

15 September 2018 11:36:25
Malcolm thomas

I run s small take away ice cream shop, we close down for five months every year, do I pay pot when closed for season.?

11 April 2018 08:32:08
Ron Edwards

You might be interested to know that music released before 31 December 1962 is now public domain and does not require a PPL licence. You still will need the PRS licence. Things to be aware of - an old song "remastered" is considered by PPL as a new copyright date (usually around 2013 when an American court case was lost by the record companies.) However the UK Copyright Act of 2013 says that if a remaster sounds and effectively is the original then the first copyright date (up to end of '62) remains. PPL will also say you need to be playing the original vinyl record. Again the 2013 act say that the copyright date is not affected by the means of "transmission" - ie vinyl, CD etc. Also be aware that PPL will wriggle, delay, send you vague threats and not willingly answer specific questions. By the way the release date of a song can be different in separate countries.  Am American release was usually a few months earlier than UK in the '60s. PPL has loaded their catalogue with American copyrights (many of which were never released in the UK, so can be played here PPL free), also some 1963 UK releases will be logged as '62 (the USA release date). You will have to weigh up whether it's worth studying all these little loopholes, or just quietly pay up. Good luck.

Published prior to March 2014
By mrs Ann O'Pray
I work in a large retail store at night and the store is closed this retail store should have a ppl license as they play and sell televisions. Are we allowed to play the radio?
Published prior to March 2014
By md
"If you think that's bad some premises have to also pay the PRS (Performing rights Society) as well! These are mainly pubs, clubs and bars through." Someone needs to do some research, you need both licenses in all businesses.
Published prior to March 2014
By the borderer
We are all sick of these bully boys, i think we should organise a mass boycott, if mass demos can topple governments then they have no chance.
Published prior to March 2014
By jim groves
I read some years ago no licence is needed for car radios, regardless of whther they can be heard by the public or not. However, I also read Derbyshire (I think?) Police force needed a licence for their cars, just in case music were ever "listen-able", also for their canteen - I would have though NOT a public place! Basically, they will get away with what you let them - the CDPA 1988 law is ridiculous and very poorly written, leaving yawning gaps of illogic and vagueness which the likes of PRS and PPL exploit to the full, versus a judiciary which largely remains ignorant of the finer points! Madness!
Published prior to March 2014
By Karen
They sent me a letter with a 50% surcharge applied I payed the principle fee but refused to pay the surcharge....they are trying to enforce the further payment of 50...does anyone had a similar story.....thanks
Published prior to March 2014
By Nino
I have sky sport Chanel on while I'm working as I love my sports news , people don't come to watch tv when they come to see me they come for a hair cut , witch takes about 5 mins, why should I have to pay ppl, they domt even play music and I. Got a TV lisance , can anyone help , cheers
Published prior to March 2014
By Rose
Early this year I paid prs and they told my that would be okay
For my salon business. Now I got a phone call from ppl telling me that I need both license and they had given me 28 days to relply or they going to take action
Published prior to March 2014
By David
I have a garage repair business we have 1 radio that is used sometimes and the public cannot hear it yet I have been hounded by PPL and RPS because we have a small shop area again you cannot hear anything. I paid PRS to get them off my back,and prior to that I did the same with PPL. However, I have just received a invoice which includes extra for late payment, how do I stand with this.
The radio is not heard and is not used to attract business I am 76 and tend to pay to save the hassle but how can this be right just to listen to a local advertising radio station.
Published prior to March 2014
By Bob Slingsby
Not all music attracts ppl and prs fees my boss uses fee free music. Its fully dj presented so sounds like a regular radio station.
Published prior to March 2014
By tony
Tell them f -off or see them in court.
Published prior to March 2014
By Robin Seccombe
It has been 4 months since they started contacting me and threatening to take me to court. During that time at least three different debt collection agencies have been phoning me, sending letters and verbally saying they would be taking me to court. That's as far as they go as they know they won't win in these cases. So don't pay them. And tell them politely what bus to catch.
Published prior to March 2014
I had a phone call from PPL asking a few questions about if I play music, never asked if I am aware that I need a license? Two days later got an invoice for 2500?????? crazy!!!!
Published prior to March 2014
Does this include listening to talk only radio(Radio 5Live / Talk Sport)or is it just music .
Published prior to March 2014
By Disgruntled
after being put on hold by this company, I was subjected to recorded music, I asked whether PPL had a licence to play this stuff and how much their licence fee was. we don't need one came back the reply after an embarrassed pause WTF is all that about rules are rules are rules. Not so it appears when you are the PPL
Published prior to March 2014
By matthew
When they phone I just tell them to F off and oddly enough I dont hear from them for ages!
Published prior to March 2014
By Paps
Do not pay, ignore them.I refused to pay and told them I will see them in court.THEY CANT AFFORD TO TAKE US ALL TO COURT.
Published prior to March 2014
By Robin Seccombe
I'm currently being hounded by them, threatening to take me to court if I don't pay. And all because my part time accounts lady listens to her personal radio when she comes in. She is my sole employee and there is no access to the public. I do understand the need for pubs, clubs, and where they can attract customers by using music but not from tiny businesses like mine. They are sneaky vile creeps and not the champions of musicians and artistes they aspire to be. I have refused to pay and await the consequences.
Published prior to March 2014
By Billy Boy
Do Taxi drivers and Long distance driver employers pay a licence. If so Eddie Stobart, Tesco and the like Must have hunderds of licences. Yes or No?
Published prior to March 2014
I wonder how many people have been frightened into paying in these sort of cases? I've had similar with companies who have wrongly claimed money owed on occasion calling in debt collection agencies despite lots of calls and letters explaining why they are wrong- (one was a mail order record company which I think no longer exits and the other was more recent - a very large telecoms company who I have NEVER been a customer of, but who claimed I had an account with them!) - luckily the collection agencies seem to take a lot more notice of the facts than the companies own internal departments and especialy when you offer them lots and lots of bad publicity for trying to bully money out of you that is not owed if they proceed - the fact they back pedal so quickly indicates to me that they KNOW that you don't really owe the money and were simply "trying it on" - which since so many do it, suggests that they manage to bully/frighten enough people to make it worthwhile. I wonder how many millions are made this way quietly ?
Published prior to March 2014
By The Max
Sorry to tell you kitchen buff but the radio license is only to 'receive' broadcasts from the BBC. When you 'broadcast' this yourself i.e. so the public can hear in your shop it you do need a license from PPL. If you think that's bad some premises have to also pay the PRS (Performing rights Society) as well! These are mainly pubs, clubs and bars through.
Published prior to March 2014
By paps
Maybe it's time to take joint action to fight back.
Published prior to March 2014
By Carl
Local Diy Store
What a wonderful country we live in.Ive been hounded by the PPL because i play a radio in office iam the only one listening to it i thought it was about playing music to the public.Have they nothing better to do then try and make life as diffcult as possible for hard working people.
Someone has to put a stop to this Madness.
Published prior to March 2014
I to had a bill for 199, I told them that we dont play music to the public. and after taking advice from Bira will not pay. Let them take me to court!
Published prior to March 2014
By Apc
The BBC and all other 'broadcasters' pay Ppl and prs licences to play copyright material on their output. These licences do not cover the 're-broadcast' to the general public in other areas - you would in theory need a licence if you drive your car around with the radio on and the windows open!
Published prior to March 2014
By kitchen buff
Correct me if I am wrong. But if i have a radio on in the shop and only play a bbc station and I pay for a TV license then why should I have to pay PPL as well

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