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Legalities of being in a covers band…


Booooooom

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Hi all, I’ve not posted in quite a while but I’d appreciate the learned opinion of the BC massive.

 

A bit of background… I’ve been playing in a covers band of friends that generally plays 8-9 times a year (pre pandemic, currently 3-4) in pubs, clubs and the occasional private party for the last 11-12 years. We normally get paid but it’s beer money at best and doesn’t even cover our annual rehearsal fees let alone equipment. During this time I’ve sorted out a band Facebook page which rarely involves much more than listing upcoming gigs. Currently the page has 168 likes so definitely a lo-key amateur affair.

 

We’ve recently been stung for a copyright infringement for unwittingly using a picture of Noddy Holder with the salutation “Meeerrrryyyy Chrrrriiiiiiiiiisssssttttmaasssss!!” which was posted on Christmas Eve 2019. Harsh, but it looks like I was a naughty boy for not checking the image first but it’s got me thinking about what we should do as a band to cover our collective backsides…

 

A few years ago we were asked by a venue for equipment PAT and public liability insurance certificates. We got the gear tested and took out some insurance but as we haven’t been asked since we’ve let both slide. Also, I may have this wrong but I’m sure I’ve read that PRS responsibility lies with the venue not the band?

 

So, what measures should an amateur covers band take to avoid falling foul of any performing rules and regulations and has anyone else got first-hand copyright infringement tales? All wisdom greatfully received.

 

BTW we generally play most stuff really well and fairly close to the original and we don’t do Sweet home Alabama so please keep the comments on topic 🙂

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How did you get 'stung', usually you're asked to remove it and so long as you do that all is OK.

 

It's quite common for YouTube and Facebook to take down versions of covers by certain artists. Other artists are less predatory. 

 

Get some kind of extra insurance unless you're house owners and already have protection. That's wise for anyone with assets they need to protect. You can't get sued it you don't have any assets, but you can get fined so insurance would give you legal cover for defending yourself. And helps if someone makes a spurious claim, you just pass them to your 'legal team'.

 

PAT is minimum I'd expect unless someone in your band is electrical and can have a look at your gear and check for visual problems. Some hotels will require it.

 

Some may ask for a risk assessment as well.

 

PRS is venue.

 

Edited by TimR
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I wouldn't gig these days without Public Liability insurance.

 

All you need is for 1 falling speaker cab to injure someone to the extent they cannot work again and you will lose your house covering that person's life time loss of earnings.

Even if it's something more minor, it gets very expensive very quickly.

 

You will get responses of "I don't care - I couldn't pay it anyway, I haven't got anything to take and I rent my house" etc

Those people seemingly forgetting that the injured person actually made the effort to come out and see the band play. And not to mention not giving a crap about hurting someone is a really crappy attitude to have.

 

The cheapest way of getting it is usually membership of the MU, or as an attachment to your equipment insurance. I'm covered by my equipment insurance and I'm also a member of Equity so I've got it there as well.

 

Even if it is the venues fault and not the band's, the venue will try and make it the band's fault and the venue will definitely be insured and the insurers will have a well experienced legal team doing their best to shift the liability from the venue to you. Even if it is only a percentage.

 

 

So have a look at your equipment insurance first - you may find that you already have it. But if not as them what it costs to add it.

 

Then talk to the MU - there's other advantages of membership too - like if a venue fails to pay you, they will do the claim to get the money.

 

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I've been asked to confirm the equipment is PAT tested a few times, all by hotels for wedding gigs. None of them actually followed through and checked the equipment or asked for certificates though. The band's guitarist was an electrician, so it wasn't a problem for us anyway.

 

While the country was locked down, my current covers band remotely recorded a cover of a popular song, and put it to a video slide-show of some band photos. It was taken down by YouTube in a matter of hours. We're quite good, but nobody was mistaking this for the original! I was very surprised by this, I didn't think recording a cover would be considered a copyright issue.

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1 minute ago, geoham said:

 

 

While the country was locked down, my current covers band remotely recorded a cover of a popular song, and put it to a video slide-show of some band photos. It was taken down by YouTube in a matter of hours. We're quite good, but nobody was mistaking this for the original! I was very surprised by this, I didn't think recording a cover would be considered a copyright issue.

 

We did that just before lockdown, New Years Eve gig 2019.  Not the whole set but a couple of covers video'd  (  Jamiraquai  Bad Girls  to name just 1  ) and the vids were shoved on the band's Faceache page and they're still there, along with more pre  New Years eve gig vids.   I dont know why they picked on yours but left ours up ?

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Some artists/labels understand how you're helping promoting their material and others think you're ripping them off. 

 

It's a bit of a ballache. Have a look at Leyland Sklar's YouTube. He gets stuff taken down where he played on the original but there's still hundreds of examples of his material up. 

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Opinions vary, of course, and there's no 'right or wrong', but I've played the thick end of 500 gigs in the last 10 years, with multiple bands and at multiple venues, and I've never once needed PAT, insurance, or any other fine scheme designed to part me from my limited supply of money.

 

IMHO you are dealing with risk assessment here. 

 

PAT - who is at risk of your faulty wiring causing death or serious injury? Well ... erm ... that's you, isn't it? And in whose best interests is it to ensure that your equipment is NOT badly wired? Oh yes, that's you again.

 

Insurance - who is likely to sue you, and for what? I can imagine being sued for a trip hazard (probably a speaker cable, maybe a monitor) or for equipment falling over (almost certainly a PA speaker toppling off its stand).

Has this ever happened to me?

Trip hazards = No. How difficult is it to route your cables away from drunken punters and dancers?

Falling PA = Yes. But that only demonstrated how things really work - a drunken dancer crashed into the PA tripod next to me and knocked it over ... onto me! Thing is, she would have had to be doing something really strange to knock it over onto herself, if you think about it.

 

So why does this subject keep coming up?

 

Because any serious venue must have insurance (Public Liability, maybe Third Party), probably pubs must have too. And their insurance policy will have a clause requiring them to insist on the people they engage (that's you, the band) to take out insurance too so that, in the event of a claim - no matter how unlikely - the insurance companies can have fun suing each other.

 

None of this has anything to do with the real world of pub rock, it's all basically a scam to part you from your money. Much like almost every other form of insurance.

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It's a real lottery. In all the gigs I've played over the last 10 years or so (well in to the hundreds) apart from one wedding we've never needed PAT testing.
 

The wedding venue actually organised it for us, so when we turned up there was a sparky ready test all our kit and put stickers on it. I think it cost us £30 all in. 

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11 minutes ago, Happy Jack said:

who is at risk of your faulty wiring causing death or serious injury? Well ... erm ... that's you, isn't it?

 

Except when you're outside taking a break and your keyboard player's 13amp plug or drummer's extension lead finally shorts out and bursts onto flame. 

 

I have seen both aforementioned keyboard player's plug and the drummer's extension lead, and worse. 

 

So at least get someone with electrical knowledge to look over your gear before your keyboard player and drummer electrocute each other. 

Edited by TimR
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19 minutes ago, Happy Jack said:

 

Agreed, but do note that this would NOT give rise to a claim against you!

 

It would if you were the drummer or the keyboard player. It's a real world example. I've seen plenty of band owned PAs with earths removed to prevent ground hum loops...

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I buy PLI as I consider it just another running cost that comes with my hobby and I feel happier with it than without, but even so, if anything did go wrong then if only for my own peace of mind I'd always like to know that I'd tried my best to mitigate any risks I'd identified and wasn't being negligent. If I could demonstrate that fact, I reckon my insurer might find it useful as well, especially in the face of a chancer.

 

I'm not an electrician but I was trained to PAT test as part of a previous role, so out of habit I visually check everything I use and make sure it's looking ok from the point of view of a 'competent person'. I've seen a lot of gear provided by venues and brought in by other bands which is an instant fail upon visual inspection, and whilst I've not hacked any plugs off (yet) I've told the owner and/or refused to use things.

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I maintain all my gigging kit myself and get it PAT tested annually. I keep the certificate with said kit. PLI comes from my MU membership. I wouldn’t want to be without either of these protections.

 

As regards PRS, yes that’s down to the venue. A few weeks ago on a rock’n’roll covers gig a PRS rep came up and introduced himself and confirmed that very point. I let him take a photo of the set list and he sat at the front chowing down a pub meal whilst looking up songs on his laptop. This kept him busy because there were a lot of quite short songs! So don’t worry about that but if you play originals, make sure to register and you can claim a few extra bob per gig.

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2 hours ago, TimR said:

How did you get 'stung', usually you're asked to remove it and so long as you do that all is OK.

 

It's quite common for YouTube and Facebook to take down versions of covers by certain artists. Other artists are less predatory…

We were contacted by a legitimate copyright company representing the owner of a copyrighted image with evidence that we had puplished their clients image without consent, licence and without accreditation. No warning just a payment claim. We removed the image immediately and negotiated a reduced fee. From memory, the image was naively copied from a similar fb post or a basic google search. It wasn’t watermarked and I didn’t consider it was being used illegitemally as we weren’t advertising anything or otherwise making any financial gain. I wondered if anyone had similar experiences?

2 hours ago, TimR said:

 

 

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Agree with other PAT testing and PLI comments and as mentioned elsewhere it was a hotel chain that asked for certificates. As we haven’t ‘staged’ any events I’ve assumed that were covered to some extent by the venue/host and my gear is covered on my house insurance.

Us bass players tend to be the sensible one in the group but we are all responsible adults in the band (even the drummer!😊) who look after our gear so the ‘visual checking by a competent person’ is a an ongoing process.

Edited by Booooooom
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9 minutes ago, Booooooom said:

We were contacted by a legitimate copyright company representing the owner of a copyrighted image with evidence that we had puplished their clients image without consent, licence and without accreditation. No warning just a payment claim. We removed the image immediately and negotiated a reduced fee. From memory, the image was naively copied from a similar fb post or a basic google search. It wasn’t watermarked and I didn’t consider it was being used illegitemally as we weren’t advertising anything or otherwise making any financial gain. I wondered if anyone had similar experiences?

 

 

 

Basically - the copyright starts the very instant the photo is taken and either belongs to the photographer or their employer or the person that commissioned the photo in the first place.

 

The long and short of it is - if you didn't take the photograph then you take a risk that a claim will be made. 

 

No one really gives a crap about a funny photo being shared on facebook but if it's an image of a famous person then the risk is higher, and higher again if it is being used in a way to promote something that has nothing to do with the subject of the famous person.

 

Don't use photos of famous people / images from TV & film / that sort of thing in your own promotions unless you have contacted the owner of the picture and asked / paid.

Or take the risk - up to you!

 

But using Noddy Holder with the equally famous "Chriiiiiiiiiiistmas" bit and doing that on Christmas Eve is like waving a giant "Please come after me" banner.

 

 

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19 minutes ago, fretmeister said:

But using Noddy Holder with the equally famous "Chriiiiiiiiiiistmas" bit and doing that on Christmas Eve is like waving a giant "Please come after me" banner.

 

 

Don’t worry I won’t be doing it again. Lesson learnt. Also, in the research I’ve done there doesn’t appear to be any time limit on infringement claims. So, as much as I’d like to quote a glam rock line I wont, just beware (despite the length of your hair).

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18 minutes ago, TimR said:

It's bizarre. You either picked the wrong photo or something else is going on.

 

There's hundreds of gifs of Noddy Holder and slade. Do a search. They must be making a small fortune. 

 

Did you take legal advice?

 

 

£250 + vat per hour for a good IP lawyer.

 

£1000 + vat on account to begin to look at it.

 

Sometimes it's just cheaper to do the deal. Especially when the OP knows it wasn't his own photograph.

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Ok, so pli and pat ....

 

You DO need them. They're cheap, do it. Also, dont think you cant be proven guilty as your band is a simple set up etc. An insurance guy could trip you up (not literally :) ) just by getting you to set up a simple tripod speaker stand. Not everyone knows how to set one up safely....

 

The consequences of not having them when you need them are dire. You can argue against using it if it was someone elses fault - ie someone cant just claim off you because theyve had 25 pints and fell into a speaker. But for when its proven it was your liability you really do need it.

 

And get both. Pli is useless without a pat test certificate. The insurance company will say you're not covered as your equipment was not tested. Likewise pat on it's own is useless, as you dont have insurance.

 

Also helps to provide evidence of and execute good practice - regular checking of equipment and cables etc.

 

 

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We're  all MU members, so were insured individually.

 

One if our team is an aircon engineer and has a sparkies ticket so were all PAT tested. 

 

We always check the venue has a PRS licence before we agree to play (never had a negative result on that one yet).

 

We keep every receipt and log everything incoming and outgoing on a spreadsheet just in case were tupped by the revenue.

 

Nothing goes on social media that isn't either us, or something we've created ourselves.

 

While its not a business, in order to stay out or the sheet it needs to be run as such, scrupulous records kept, and all eventualities considered. Its a ballache compared to being a pub band in the 70's, but thats modern living for you.

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