Northern Ireland Tourist Board

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Copyright licences - Music, TV & Film

You may be required by law to have a music licence if you play music in your business. There are different types of licences depending on how and where the music is played. This is general guidance for information only. It is not definitive of all laws which may apply to this area and is not intended to or does it constitute legal advice. Read our full disclaimer.

Businesses and organisations may be covered by TheMusicLicence for the use of the vast majority of commercially released music available – millions of songs and recordings, including the most popular and well-loved music, not just from the UK but from around the world.

PPL and PRS for Music (“Collection Societies”) will continue to set their own tariffs and distribute the fees collected by Collection Societies to respective members - performers and record companies for PPL and the songwriters, composers and publishers for PRS for Music. This income is important to individuals and companies within UK music industry; it supports the future of new music and helps to enable people to make a living out of writing, playing and performing music. 

To play music in a public place without a licence may infringe copyright laws. Collection Societies could then bring proceedings under the applicable copyright if the licence fee is not paid and music continues to be played.

Music legislation and tourist accommodation premises

If tourist accommodation providers play music in their premises where it can be heard by members of the public and they do not hold a music licence, then they could be in breach of copyright legislation. The proprietors may be subject to legal proceedings if they do not pay the licence fee. The options available to the proprietors are that they either pay the licence fee or do not play music on their tourist accommodation premises. 

Charging policy for small B&Bs and single-unit Self-Catering businesses

PRS for Music has a discretionary charging policy which waives music licence charges for tourist accommodation businesses meeting all of the following criteria:

  • The premises has 3 guest bedrooms or fewer
  • The premises is the sole holiday accommodation business operated or owned by the proprietors
  • The premises is also the domestic residence of the proprietor
  • The premises is not licensed for the sale of alcohol (by the local authority)
  • Facilities are only available to resident guests

This policy also applies to small B&Bs with three guest bedrooms or fewer as well as single unit self catering businesses with three bedrooms or fewer.  For more information visit the PRS For Music website.

Copyright for showing films and TV programmes

There was an exemption for showing films and TV programmes via free-to-air services e.g. if you had TVs that played films on channels such as BBC or ITV. However, the Government was obliged to remove the exemption to bring UK copyright law into line with European copyright law.

You may need to obtain a licence through the Motion Picture Licensing Company (MPLC) which is a Collection Society which licenses rights on behalf of various film companies and TV producers. It is different to PPL PRS which apply only to audio copyirght licensing.

Two tariffs may apply. One is in relation to showing filsm in public communal areas. The other is for TVs in guest bedrooms.

Public communal areas include bars, guest lounge, gym or reception. The fee is according to the size of the area. From 1 Janaury 2020 there is a fee is £101.70 plus VAT for accommodation providers with public areas of up 500 sq m.

Accommodation providers may be be required to pay the Hotel/Guest Bedroom tariff (effective from 1 January 2020 if they have TVs in guest bedrooms. There is an introductory rate is £4 plus VAT per bedroom per year. There may be a concession available when accommodation is only available for part of the year. An exemption may also apply to self-catering properties or where a TV cannot display films or TV programmes.

Please note some trade associations have not yet accepted the legal basis for the new tariff and its applicability to tourism accommodation operators.

Other Licences

There are other situations in which it may be necessary to obtain a licence:

  • Using a third party’s imagery or branding
  • Providing an in-room entertainment system or DVD film library

More Information

For more information on how to obtain a music licence you may want to visit the PPL PRS and MPLC websites or obtain independent legal advice.