Buskers in the city of Liverpool have launched a legal bid to challenge a local law which allows police to stop any buskers who they believe are not good enough.
The law has created what are being called 'Simon Cowell cops' as the police are essentially judging musicians before deciding whether they should be allowed to continue.
The rule, which forms part of the city council's Street Management Plan, has sparked controversy, with buskers in the city starting a 'Keep Streets Live' campaign with backing from local lawyers. Now the group plan to launch a judicial review of the policy which they believe amounts to 'restrictive terms and conditions'.
The new regulations in the city mean that street performers must pay £20 for a permit to perform, and £100 for public liability insurance.
Solicitor David Kirwan of Kirwan's solicitors in the city believes that busking is at the heart of Liverpool's identity.
"Entertainment is the heartbeat of Liverpool's culture - it defines our city's personality and gives us inspiration through good times and bad," he told The Daily Mail.
"This is an important campaign for our city and other towns and cities across the UK whose council leaders may be tempted to follow Liverpool's poor example," he added.
The council have responded saying that the policy has been introduced on a trial basis and would be reviewed in October.
Busking and the law
Busking is not formally illegal but many councils have imposed terms and conditions to restrict live performances by requiring musicians and street acts to apply for a licence and insurance in order to perform.
Legal advice to anyone thinking of busking is to talk to your local council or police station about the rules in your area. Children under 14 years of age are not allowed to busk.
Is busking begging?
An oft-asked question is whether the act of playing an instrument or conducting a street performance in exchange for money qualifies as begging. The answer is that it most certainly does not.
There is good case law to point to the fact that a musician playing an instrument in exchange for coins from passers-by is not guilty of any offence under the Vagrancy Act 1824. The reason that busking is not begging is that the musician or performer gives something of value back to passers-by, and in no way forces them to hand over money.
Busking and copyright
Many street musicians and performers frequently cover songs by other artists as part of their set. The covers attract the audience to familiar music which they know and love. However, as with any public performance there is always the potential for busking to contravene copyright law.
When music is played in public the owner of a copyright is entitled to receive a royalty from the person playing their music. This money is collected and distributed by the Performing Right Society (PRS) via a licensing system.
If you are unsure if your act will contravene copyright law, contact PRS for further information or speak to a solicitor.
Busking and UK law (Squidoo)