Performing Rights Society

British Airways has welcomed the recent decision by the Copyright Tribunal to reduce fees payable for playing music in-flight.

The airline initiated proceedings before the Copyright Tribunal to set a fair level of fees payable to the Performing Rights Society.

British Airways argued that the fees paid by UK airlines to the PRS should be more comparable to those paid by the overseas airlines with whom it competes.

If British Airways was an airline registered in the United States, it would pay £110,000 a year, one tenth of the current fee sought by the Performing Rights Society.

For the years 1996-7, the PRS asked for £1.1million a year from British Airways. The Tribunal has now accepted that that is too much and has reduced the fees to £700,000 a year.


Martin George, British Airways Director of Marketing, said: “We are pleased that the Tribunal has settled this dispute and British Airways will now pay fees that are more comparable to our competitors.”

The Tribunal said: “There is no doubt that the PRS rate is at the extreme end of the range of foreign rates of which we have evidence. Were it not for the foreign rates which were drawn to our attention, we would not have viewed the other arguments for a reduction of the total amount payable by BA under Tariff AC as very persuasive.

“However, we were impressed by the suggestion that for an international marketplace there is much to be said for attempting to level out the rates between different countries.”

During the Tribunal the issue of under-declaration of passenger numbers was also raised.

The Tribunal heard that once discovered by British Airways and the PRS, it was dealt with speedily with a one-off financial payment in 1996.

John Axon, Director of the PRS, said at the Tribunal that the PRS had not taken sufficient care over the issue and that the mistakes made by British Airways were not deliberate or intentional.