Charity hit with carol copyright bill

A charity has been hit with a bill ... because children sing Christmas carols on the premises.

Staff at historic Dam House in Astley, part of which is now a tearoom, were shocked last year when a Performing Rights Society officer visited and told them they needed a licence for staff to listen to a radio in the kitchen.

They were even more surprised when quizzed about what other activities they allowed on the premises and were stunned to be told their annual carol concert would be taken into account when the cost of their licence was calculated.

Last year they were handed a bill of 230 – which they managed to pay

by holding a raffle – but the future of fund-raising shows was put in doubt after the PRS demanded 470 this year.

Trustee Margaret Hatton said: "They told us the only way to avoid paying to sing the carols is if the kids are told to stick to old songs which are out of copyright.

"We got really worked up when they told us how much we would have to pay this year. They asked us what facilities we had and we think they are charging more because they found out we've got a function room.

"But we only have a few concerts a year and you would think the children's carols at least would be exempt."

Dam House trustee Elaine Hurst said: "We know the recording artists need to be paid for their work but this is ridiculous.

"I recently joined in a radio phone in discussion about this and found out there is a lot of anger towards the way the PRS are acting.

"The Manchester Chamber of Commerce has been outraged and invited the society up for a meeting."

The trouble began last year when an officer said the staff radio in the kitchen could be heard from the 42-seat tea room.

Now the spiralling cost of the licence is eating into vital charity funds and Dam House were almost forced to cancel a recent concert by Leigh folk singer Bram Taylor.

He has joined the charity in calling for an exemption from the licence for small charity gigs.

He said: "The PRS is there to help people in my line of work but even I think it is ridiculous that a charity is being asked to pay this."

A spokesman from PRS said: "Morts Astley Heritage Tearooms has been quoted 470.06 for a PRS Music Licence, based on the music usage information it provided to PRS.

"The business completed our standard reassessment form in which it indicated that its music usage had increased since it purchased a PRS Music Licence last year. Based on this information, a new invoice reflecting the increase in music usage was issued on November 10, 2007.

"We are in contact with Morts Astley Heritage Tearooms Ltd directly since they spoke of their concerns on BBC Radio Manchester to ensure the details they provided PRS are correct."