The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin

Wednesday 25th November 2009 - HMV prosecuted for unlicensed singer

'Music chain HMV is to be prosecuted for letting Britain's Got Talent finalist Faryl Smith sing during a signing at one of their stores,' reports BBC news online:

Kettering Borough Council is prosecuting the local HMV store on the basis that it did not first obtain a £21 Temporary Event Notice. This is a criminal prosecution for which the maximum penalty is a £20,000 fine and six months in prison.

The singer's performance, which apparently took place last March, can be viewed on YouTube:

Asked about this on BBC Northampton yesterday, Feargal Sharkey commented:

'It just highlights how utterly ridiculous this piece of legislation is and how dysfunctional the whole thing has become. We happily accept that quite clearly there are very large scale live music events, like big outdoor festivals, that clearly need to be very carefully managed... The whole thing is actually quite ludicrous and it's kind of one of those things that when I first saw the clip on YouTube of the actual performance I genuinely thought somebody was trying to make fun of me and it was April the 1st.'

See BBC Northants on iPlayer - Feargal Sharkey's comments start at 1'33":

Unfortunately it is clear that the BBC reporters misunderstood the basis for the council's action, confusing entertainment licensing with copyright licensing. Sharkey had to explain the difference between the two regimes.

It is hard to see any rational grounds for the prosecution, or how it passed the necessary public interest test. Even had the store applied for a Temporary Event Notice, the council has no power to impose any noise or safety conditions. The council must grant the licence unless Temporary Event Notice limits would be exceeded (i.e. more than 499 people would attend), or the police intervene on crime and disorder grounds. In any case, separate legislation already covers noise and safety concerns in workplaces.


Hamish Birchall