Performance Rights Organizations (PROs), sometimes known as “Collection Societies,” have a long history of demanding licensing for just about every damn thing. That’s why there was just some confusion about whether or not those with musical talents would even be allowed to perform from their balconies while in COVID-19 lockdown. And if you thought that it was crazy that anyone would even worry about things like that, it’s because you haven’t spent years following the crazy demands made by PROs, including demanding a license for a woman in a grocery store singing while stocking the shelves, a public performance license for having the radio on in a horse stable (for the horses), or claiming that your ringtone needs a separate “public performance” license, or saying that hotels that have radios in their rooms should pay a public performance license.
Five years ago, we wrote about another such crazy demand — a PRO in Sweden demanding that rental car companies pay a performance license because their cars had radios, and since “the public” could rent their cards and listen to the radio, that constituted “a communication to the public” that required a separate license. The case has bounced around the courts, and finally up to the Court of Justice for the EU which has now, finally, ruled that merely renting cars does not constitute “communication to the public.”
From the CJEU’s press release:
… the Court of Justice, in its judgment delivered today, held that it is the case of the supply of a radio receiver forming an integral part of a hired motor vehicle, which makes it possible to receive, without any additional intervention by the leasing company, the terrestrial radio broadcasts available in the area in which the vehicle is located. That therefore differs from acts of communication by which service providers intentionally broadcast protected works to their clientele, by distributing a signal by means of receivers that they have installed in their establishment.
Basically, people aren’t renting cars for the purpose of listening to music, and it’s not like the rental car company is creating some special musical offering. They’re just renting cars. Which have radios. Which might play music. If a customer turns it on and tunes into a radio station. And thus, finally, years later, we are assured that renting cars is not “communicating [music] to the public” for which the rental car company must pay extra.
But just the fact that this spent half a decade in court should give you an idea of just how greedy and messed up the copyright world is, with the various PROs/Collection Societies leading the way down the most ridiculous path.