An appeal court defeat for the company that licenses recorded music in shops is a victory for retailers, says the British Retail Consortium.
The decision will save retailers £5m a year and win them a £20m refund of excessive charges they have paid over the last five years.
Phonographic Performance (PPL), which collects music copyright fees on behalf of record companies, lost its appeal against a ruling made last October that licence fee increases it had imposed were excessive. In 2005 the company pushed charges up dramatically, with some outlets seeing their costs more than double overnight. One retail group’s annual bill rose from £176,000 to £408,000 and another chain’s fee went from £25,000 to £73,000.
In October the Copyright Tribunal decided that the increases should be capped at 10%, but PPL’s lost appeal has now triggered a multi-million pound payback for retailers.
Following the ruling, BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “We’ve finally won a victory for fairness. It’s a shame PPL wasn’t willing to accept the original ruling.
“Being able to play music or have a radio on is important for customers and staff in many shops. Performers and record companies are entitled to be paid, but increases on the scale demanded were unjustifiable and out of reach for many retailers.”
Pending the outcome of the appeal, businesses have continued to pay the licence fees at the high rate. However, new fee rates will apply immediately and businesses are entitled to back-dated refunds of their previous overpayments.
In 2008 PPL collected £127.6m-worth of fees from UK businesses, around £11m of this believed to be from retailers.