Rights holders seek royalties for music in the workplace

Groups representing the interests of Sweden’s music publishers are demanding that nearly 3,000 companies and organizations pay up to 40,000 kronor ($5,000) per year for allowing employees to listen to music during the work day.

Rights holders seek royalties for music in the workplace

“Perhaps someone has the radio on or is listening to a CD and if so, you need to have a permit that allows for music to be played the workplace,” said Susanne Bodin, a spokesperson for the Swedish Performing Rights Society (STIM) to the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

“A workplace isn’t private and therefore you should have a licence for music to be played so that the copyright holders get paid.”

The issue of paying for music in the workplace came into sharp relief recently when the legal department at the Stockholm county administrative board submitted a written request with the Government Offices of Sweden (Regeringskansliet) to clarify the government’s position on licence fees for music in the workplace.

The filing came after STIM demanded that the board pay a fee of 25,000 kronor per year in order to allow its 500 some employees the right to listen to music on computers and radios at work.

The Swedish Artists and Musicians Interest Organization (SAMI) had also requested a fee of 15,000 kronor per year.

According to its website, STIM was formed to “protect the economic rights” of its members – composers, arrangers, songwriters – “when their works are played publicly or recorded”.

The organization issues licences that entitle the holder customer to play music in a certain place, such as a restaurant or on a website.

Collected fees are distributed as royalties to copyright holders.

But the need to pay for music at work took officials with the Stockholm county board by surprise, prompting them to inquire as to whether or not higher governing authorities in Sweden abide by the practice.

“According to the legal investigation I carried out, it seems appropriate that these fees are paid, but we still want a response from the Government Offices as to whether you pay these fees yourself,” wrote administrative board lawyer Annika Kleen in a letter to the government.

Speaking to The Local on Monday, Kleen said she had not yet received a response.

“We’ve never come across this before and are looking for guidelines,” she said.

A legal analyst with the Government Offices was unable to tell DN whether or not the offices paid the fee, but didn’t rule out legal action if an agreement regarding compensation could not be reached.

The request sent to the Stockholm board is part of a recently launched campaign by STIM targeting 2,900 companies and organizations around the country explaining that any workplace with more than 40 employees needs to pay a licence fee if workers listen to music via a computer or other type of device.

“It’s our job to find these workplaces so that those who we answer to – the music publishers – get paid,” Bodin told DN.

She added that STIM has the right to demand that every workplace in Sweden with more than 40 employees pay the fees if employers allow workers to listen to music.

“Of course we can’t force anyone to pay if they say that they don’t listen to music,” said Bodin.

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