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RIAA-partner, PRS threatened to sue Sandra Burk, a British woman, for singing on the job. They eventually back down after a torrent of negative publicity.  (Source: BBC News)
Yet another example of irresponsible copyright enforcement rears its ugly head

From suing dead people, to attacking CD-burning of legally-owned content for personal use, to seeking damages against people who don't own a computer, it doesn't seem like there's many lows to which copyright protection organizations like the RIAA won't stoop.  However, a recent case involving the Performing Right Society (PRS) -- a British RIAA affiliate -- shows that even the most curmudgeonly copyright organization can occasionally come around, when faced with overwhelming public scorn.

The humorous tale involves the organization catching wind of a “heinous” offense -- an employee singing in public.  Sandra Burt, 56, who works at A&T Food store (a British supermarket) in Clackmannanshire, UK was told by organization representatives that she would likely face fines for lost royalties for her "performance". 

The debacle began earlier in the year when the PRS threatened the grocery store she worked at, telling them to ditch the radio that played in earshot of customers or pay royalty fees.  Missing the music, Ms. Burt decided to start singing some of her favorite tunes.  She describes, "I would start to sing to myself when I was stacking the shelves just to keep me happy because it was very quiet without the radio."

Then came new threats from the PRS.  Ms. Burt describes, "When I heard that the PRS said I would be prosecuted for not having a performance license, I thought it was a joke and started laughing.  I was then told I could be fined thousands of pounds. But I couldn't stop myself singing. They would need to put a plaster over my mouth to get me to stop, I can't help it."

Indeed, the woman, who describes herself as a Rolling Stones fan and classic rocker, refused to stop singing.  BBC News caught wind of the story and published a piece on it.

The reaction was instant, with many writing furious letters to the PRS.  Facing an overwhelming outpouring of public vehemence, the PRS backed down, as the RIAA occasionally has.  They sent her a bouquet of flowers as an apology and said she had their permission to keep singing.  The note read, "We're very sorry we made a big mistake.  We hear you have a lovely singing voice and we wish you good luck."

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RE: Lost royalties?
By acase on 10/23/2009 11:14:41 AM , Rating: 2
I'm not sure that it is from pressure of the RIAA or not...but my fiance works at a Regions Bank, and they were told a few months ago that they were no longer allowed to play the radio where customers could hear it due to copyright infringement.

RE: Lost royalties?
By ClownPuncher on 10/23/2009 12:10:00 PM , Rating: 5
Sounds like a good time to be a gun owner.

RE: Lost royalties?
By stirfry213 on 10/23/2009 1:12:42 PM , Rating: 4
What is the difference between 1 public radio playing so that 100 people can hear it and 100 private radios playing so that 100 people can hear it? So is the RIAA/RPS gonna go after every punk and their brother for playing their car radios loud enough for others to hear it?

If you were charging people to listen to your radio... I could see that. Otherwise, I can't think of anything else to say about this other than... what the f*ck?

RE: Lost royalties?
By Jalek on 10/23/2009 11:24:05 PM , Rating: 2
They could just put lawyers on every streetcorner and they can run over to the window of any car playing music loud enough to be audible from the sidewalk and demand money.

I think there's a name for that already though..

RE: Lost royalties?
By ssjwes1980 on 10/24/2009 7:34:09 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry but where Im from you dont run up to peoples open windows on the street especially if there rides bumpin

RE: Lost royalties?
By Camikazi on 10/24/2009 10:51:10 PM , Rating: 2
Not even lawyers are dumb enough to make themselves targets like that :P Although it would drop the number of lawyers tremendously very quickly. Forget roadkill clean up, will need lawyer street cleanup!

“So far we have not seen a single Android device that does not infringe on our patents." -- Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith

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