Legal Q&A: film licences and supermarket spirits

By Poppleston Allen

- Last updated on GMT

Illegal sales: use registered suppliers only
Illegal sales: use registered suppliers only

Related tags: License, Broadcasting, Royalties

This week's Q&A looks at the rules about broadcasting films in pubs and buying spirits from the supermarket.

Do I need a film licence?

Q:​ I run a small pub and have a single TV, which I use to provide background entertainment of live broadcasts including sport and music channels.

I have been approached by the Motion Picture Licensing Company (MPLC), which has suggested that I need its licence to show films. I already have PRS and PPL coverage for music and VPL for music videos and I do not really show movies. Do I still need MPLC’s licence?

A: If you are only broadcasting subscription or terrestrial subscription sports, rolling news or music channels you do not require an MPLC licence although other forms of TV content may require the licence.

You should also ensure you have the appropriate permission to show sports content to the public, which may be required if you use a subscription service package for example.

Moving images (films) are potentially caught by copyright law and this includes films and TV dramas for example whether or not this is through a live TV broadcast, playing of DVDs or through a streaming service.

The copyright protection applies whether or not the sound is also played. While your TV is displaying any content other than music, sports or news, you will need copyright holder permission.

MPLC is one of a number of companies, including Filmbank, that represent companies that own the copyright attached to films and other TV content.

If you are going to show any protected material, you should contact one of the companies and obtain the relevant licence. Licence fees are broken into categories, which depend upon a number of factors such as the nature of your operation, size and number of screens in operation.

If you opt for not obtaining a ‘film’ licence then you must have systems in place to ensure that you do not unwittingly broadcast protected material such as any content broadcast after a sports match.

Spirits from supermarket

Q:​ We usually source our alcohol from a local wholesaler but, last month, one of our members restocked a few bottles of spirits from a supermarket as we did not have time to go to our usual supplier. I understand that we should only use a registered wholesaler, is this correct?

A: The Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme (AWRS) requires any business selling alcohol in wholesale volumes to be registered. The aims of the scheme include the minimisation of alcohol duty fraud and counterfeit goods.

It is an offence for a business to buy controlled liquor wholesale from unregistered suppliers. Check with the Government’s online registration verification process at​.

It is possible that unregistered companies such as supermarkets could inadvertently make a trade sale themselves by supplying a club such as yours or another pub, but these instances are known as incidental sales and are exempt from the registration requirements and the potential offences.

This exclusion is only available to authorised retailers who hold relevant authorisations, such as a premises licence or a club premises certificate under the Licensing Act 2003.

This provision covers incidents where licensees, such as supermarkets, do not make usual sales to other trade organisations. Any incidental supply will be made without the licensee’s knowledge, for example, an unplanned sale through the checkout.

It is the ultimate responsibility of the retail supplier. However, if an unregistered supplier (supermarket) makes trade sales that are not incidental, you as the purchaser would also commit an offence and it is safest to ensure you buy from registered suppliers.

Related topics: Licensing law

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