Is your pub’s TV breaking the law?

By Nicholas Robinson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Copyright conditions: having a TV in your pub may cause licensing issues
Copyright conditions: having a TV in your pub may cause licensing issues

Related tags: Royalties

Operators are breaking copyright laws by allowing customers to watch non-live programmes in their pubs, MA500 delegates heard at a conference in Cambridge today (8 February).

Copyright laws relating to broadcast films and non-live television shows in public spaces have changed after a court case found UK copyright law in the area was incompatible with EU rules.

For pubs, the upshot to the change means it is now easier for the Motion Picture Licensing Company (MPLC) to collect copyright royalties for broadcast films and programmes, in the same way PRS and PPL do with music.

British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) policy manager for pub operations Jim Cathcart said: “MPLC has been around for a while, but with the change in the law it’s easier for it to collect its fees. This could cause a big issue for all once it goes through because if you have TV content on, you’re liable to pay copyright."

Legally obliged to pay them

Cathcart continued: If you are broadcasting content to the public, you’re legally obliged to pay them [the owner]. Live broadcast is exempt, like news or horse racing on ITV or terrestrial – that’s not covered.”

However, the guidelines surrounding the way fees can be collected and in what circumstances pubs should pay are yet to be agreed, added Cathcart.

“The initial MPLC position was that all pins with the ability to show their members content should pay,” he said. “So, in practice, if you have a TV, you should pay.”

However, the BBPA and other trade organisations have agreed the MPLC must come up with a set of guidelines to allow operators the opportunity to show they are not broadcasting films and programmes.

“You need to have a mechanism in place to show you’re not showing not-live content, you have to prove that staff are trained and aware that live content is fine, but when that ends, the TV needs to be turned off,” explained Cathcart.

That said, MPLC does not represent all broadcasters, which means another company could operate and collect fees in the future.

Collect payments as one body

Meanwhile, PPL and PRS are working on a joint venture, after announcing plans last year, to collect payments as one body. However, they are not merging, said Cathcart, just working more closely.

BBPA research showed, on average, pubs already pay around £1,050 for music and television rights, including background, discos and for jukeboxes.

The average licensee pays £130 tariff for background music and £170 for their jukebox to Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL). This money is paid to record companies and music copyright owners.

They also pay the Performing Rights Society (PRS) an average of £80 for background music (excluding television) and £240 for jukeboxes, which goes to the musicians and songwriters.

Related topics: Legislation

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