Charities across the West Midlands are stepping up a campaign against new government rules that will require them to buy expensive performing rights licences if they plan to play music at fundraising events such as discos, fetes and tea dances.
Thousands of shops run by the likes of Cancer Research and Help The Aged will be caught by the changes, which will be imposed if the background music played for customers is still in copyright.
Third Sector groups are warning that organisations in the West Midlands could end up paying a total of £1.5 million a year in licensing fees if the changes are introduced in April – money that could otherwise be spent on charitable purposes.
The new system, which will apply to individual premises and events, could cost charities that run shops across the UK a total of more than £500,000 a year, according to the Association of Charity Shops.
The association, representing more than 300 charities, says its members will have to pay an average of £1,800 a year if they want to continue playing music.
Almost 100 MPs have signed an Early Day Motion in Parliament urging the Government to think again.
Charities already pay fees to the Performing Rights Society (PRS), which represents music writers, composers and publishers.
At the moment charities do not have to pay fees to Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL), which represents music producers and performers.
Under the new system they would pay a far larger fee to be split between the PRS and PPL.
A spokesman for PPL said that charities would be charged per shop, rather than paying a one-off fee to play music in all their shops.
He said the cost per charity shop had not been decided, but the amount was likely to be less than £100 a year.
However, the National Council for Voluntary Organsiations (NCVO) estimates that more than 12,000 charities in the West Midlands will end up paying £1.5 million a year under the new system.
The Government argues that the changes are necessary to be fair to recording artists and to bring Britain into line with European law.
But voluntary organisations say the licensing system will hit charities hard.
Liz Atkins, head of public policy at NCVO, said: “Many charities in the West Midlands run on shoestring budgets and rely on small fundraising events to help them survive. This is a shameful way to treat voluntary organisations that help some of the most disadvantaged people in our society.”
The rule change will affect people in a wide range of organisations, including volunteers sorting clothes in the back of charity shops while listening to music.
David Moir, head of policy and public affairs at the Association of Charity Shops, said: “This proposal is outrageous. It will damage charity shops and their fundraising ability.”
He said a government estimate of an additional £540,000 bill nationally for shops playing music could only be met from funds intended to support charities.
Mr Moir added: “The music industry already collects about £17 million in royalties each year, so the amount from charity shops won’t make that much difference, but it will certainly hit our shops very hard.”
According to official government figures, the rule change will cost UK charities an extra £20.6 million a year.