TV and copyright licences

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Key facts

  • If you offer short-stay accommodation (of any kind) to overnight visitors and have installed television sets in the accommodation, you need a ‘Hotel and Mobile Units Television Licence’ (hotel licence).
  • If you play any copyright music in public or on your premises (this includes radio and TVs) or if it is performed live, you may need TheMusicLicence from PPL PRS Ltd.
  • If you play a TV in public areas with the sound on, you will need TheMusicLicence from PPL PRS Ltd.
  • If you offer a DVD film library, you need a DVD Concierge licence.
  • If you operate an in-room entertainment system you will need a Hotel Vision licence.
  • If you show films in public areas, including on ‘free to air’ channels such as ITV or BBC1, you need a MPLC licence.

Television licences

Do I need a special licence?

Yes: if you offer short-stay accommodation to overnight visitors, whether in serviced or self-catering accommodation and you provide a device on which your guests can view TV programmes, you need to apply for a ‘Hotel and Mobile Units Television Licence’ (hotel licence). It should be noted that a licence is required regardless of whether the TV programmes are viewed through a TV, computer, mobile phone, games console, digital box, DVD/VHS recorder or any other device.

Note: despite its name, the hotel licence encompasses accommodation ranging from hotels, guesthouses, bed and breakfasts and inns to holiday cottages, flats and chalets through to camping and caravan sites and narrowboats.

The TV Licensing Authority says that you should always take out a hotel licence if you are providing televisions for the use of paying guests. While staying on your property, guests are not covered by their home licence. There is one exception: long-term hotel residents (i.e. those staying over 28 days) are not covered by a hotel licence, but they must have an ordinary television licence.

Note: While accommodation provided in sited caravans falls under the hotel licence scheme, there are different rules for touring caravans or mobile homes. The hirer of a touring caravan or mobile home may be covered by the licence for their home address as long as the television receivers are not being used at their home and caravan or mobile home at the same time.

Hotel licence fees

Your licence fee will be based on the number of units of overnight accommodation you have to let.

  • if you have up to 15 units with televisions installed, you will pay one full fee of £150.50
  • if you have more than 15 units, you will pay one full fee for the first 15 and an additional £150.50 for every extra five units (or fewer)
  • The hotel licence is available only from TV Licensing. (See Further guidance below for details).

What does it cover?

It will cover any equipment that can be used to watch or record TV programmes in:

  • hotels, inns, guest houses, holiday villages, caravans and campsites
  • the owner’s private rooms on the site
  • on-site staff accommodation (if provided by the hotel/accommodation owner)
  • lounges or other common rooms that are open to people staying on the site
  • It does not cover:
  • TV equipment which is not provided by the proprietor of the accommodation
  • TV equipment in long-term letting accommodation and for permanent residents.

Note: an important feature of the regulations is that a licence only covers one or more units of guest accommodation ‘on the same site’ or ‘within the same premises’. That means a site or premises that is not divided or separated by any public thoroughfare such as a road or footpath or by another private property. If there is an annex to your premises on the other side of the road from the main building or if you let holiday cottages in different locations, you will need a separate licence for each location.

If you have a TV in public areas, such as a bar or breakfast room, which has the sound turned on, you will also need TheMusicLicence from PPL PRS Ltd.

Copyright licences for music

You will need to obtain a copyright licence if you are playing copyrighted music ‘in public’ on your premises, whether it is through a radio, TV, CD or DVD player or any other device, or it is performed live.

‘In public’ means any occasion other than a family/domestic occasion (such as a wedding), and includes guests’ rooms.  So, even if you have the radio in the breakfast room or simply provide a radio in a guest’s room, you may require a licence.

There is now one licence which covers both recorded and live music - TheMusicLicence from PPL PRS Ltd.

The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 states that any use of copyrighted music in public is possible only with the permission of the person who holds the copyright to each song being played. Of course, such a situation is completely impractical and PPL PRS has been formed to help you meet your legal obligations. Youcan apply to them for a single licence rather than having to contact each individual copyright owner – see Obtaining a licence below.

Do I need a licence?

Yes: if you play any copyrighted music in public on your premises. This includes self-catering accommodation.

No: in 2010 the following exemption was introduced for small accommodation businesses:

  • If you have a B&B or guesthouse that has three guest bedrooms or less and:

-The premises is the only holiday accommodation business that you own or operate

-The premises is also your domestic residence

-Facilities are only available to resident guests

  • If you operate only one self-catering property and that property has three guest bedrooms or less.

Is a licence required for copyrighted music in customers' rooms?

Yes: a licence is required where music can be played in guests’ rooms via TVs, radios and other devices.

The PPL PRS Code of Conduct clarifies the rights and responsibilities of PPL PRS and businesses that provide music. An ombudsman has also been established to oversee PPL PRS’s performance and to adjudicate on complaints.

Obtaining a licence

Further information on obtaining a licence, along with a list of licence tariffs, is available from PPL PRS (see Further guidance below). If a licence is required, PPL PRS has a dedicated section of its website for hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses. You can view all the tariffs which relate to your establishment and a checklist of information needed to obtain a quote, which includes:

  • music in bedrooms
  • number of bedrooms supplied or provided with recorded music
  • background music – all premises
  • areas where music is audible, such as receptions, bars etc.
  • premises with 16 bedrooms or more: Background music
  • the square meterage of each area where music is audible
  • number of seats in bar and restaurant areas where music is playing
  • types of devices used to play music, such as radio, CDs, TV etc.
  • live events
  • number and capacity of live events held per year

As an example, if you supply recorded music to hotel bedrooms, your combined yearly music licence could cost around £105 (excluding VAT) per 15 bedrooms.

Note: you are required by law to obtain a licence if you need one. If you apply for a licence before you start playing copyright music in a public place, you will be charged a standard rate. If you apply later, or are caught playing music without a licence, you will be charged a higher rate for the first year of the licence.

Tariffs

The tariffs relating to TheMusicLicence continue to be set by both PPL (representing the copyright for recordings) and PRS for Music (representing the copyright for songs being played) separately. Licence tariffs vary in accordance with the type of performance (live or recorded), the type of premises, the occasion and the frequency of performances.

You can obtain more information by contacting PPL PRS Customer Service Centre on 0800 0720 808 or by visiting the PPL PRS website.

Discretionary Charging Policies

PPL and PRS for Music each separately operate a number of discretionary charging policies setting out circumstances in which, whilst legally entitled to do so, they choose not to apply a charge. Due to the specific nature of these policies it is advisable to contact them for more information and to check if any of them apply to you.

Tariff for passenger vessels (ocean-going, coastal and inland)

This tariff applies to performances of copyright music within the Society’s repertoire on board all vessels including cruise liners and other ocean or sea-going vessels, and local ferries, lake river and

pleasure craft. These royalty charges apply to royalties due between December 1st and November 30th of the following year.

Copyright for showing films

Previously there has been an exemption for showing films via free-to-air services– e.g. if you have a TV in a lounge or bar that plays films on channels such as BBC or ITV.

However, there has been a requirement on the UK Government to remove that exemption to bring UK copyright law into line with European copyright law. You now need to gain a licence through the Motion Picture Licensing Company (MPLC) to provide this service to your customers. As with PPL PRS Ltd for audio copyright licencing, MPLC is a collection society which licenses rights on behalf of various film companies and independent producers. The fee is set by the size of the public area in the establishment which, in this case, does not include private areas such as bedrooms. The fee for a accommodation business with public areas of up to 500 sq m is £100.20 +VAT (from 1 January 2019) A full table of the charges is available on the MPLC website: www.themplc.co.uk.

It is important to note that a MPLC licence is not required for TVs in guests’ bedrooms, or if you have a TV in a public area of your establishment that is locked onto a channel that does not play films (e.g. the BBC News channel or Sky Sports). However, you cannot just say that “we only show the news channel” – the test is that the TV is not able to be switched to film-playing channels.

Licences to show DVDs

Do I need a licence?

If you offer films to guests, either through an in-room entertainment system or simply by providing a DVD film library, you need a licence to do so.

Providing films to paying guests without a licence is an infringement of copyright law (the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988). It is a civil, and in some cases, criminal offence to show a film in this manner without the permission of the copyright owner (the film studios) or their representatives (the licensing bodies).

A licence permits properties to provide DVDs for guests’ use, whether guests are using DVD players, laptops, games consoles or other portable devices. Properties will be able to hold an unlimited number of DVDs from the represented studios covered by the licence.

Licences are taken out on a different basis depending on the type of guest accommodation:

  • bed and breakfast accommodation, guesthouses, small hotels and boutique hotels are required to take a licence out on a per room basis
  • serviced apartments require one licence per apartment
  • chalets and holiday homes require one licence per chalet/home

Who issues licences?

The main organisations that issues licences to businesses are:

  • Filmbank Media - This is a joint venture company owned by Warner Bros. Entertainment and Sony Pictures Releasing. It operates the DVD Concierge Licence scheme and represents many of the leading Hollywood and independent film studios in the area of film usage outside the cinema and home. For more information, visit the Filmbank Media website.
  • The Motion Picture Licensing Company - The Motion Picture Licensing Company represents more than 400 TV and film producers and distributors. For more information, visit the MPLC website.

You may wish to look at these and other companies offering a similar service in order to compare prices. In doing so, make sure that the company you approach represents the studios producing the films you wish to offer customers.

Cost of Filmbank Media licences

The main form of licence applicable to small accommodation businesses is the DVD Concierge Licence which allows businesses to provide DVDs for their customers’ use. There are two forms of this licence:

  • annual properties (those open year round) – £30 plus VAT per room/unit
  • seasonal properties (open for eight months or less) – £20 plus VAT per room/unit
  • the fees payable are for the licence only and accommodation providers would continue to purchase DVDs as usual. The licence fees quoted for guest accommodation apply when no extra charge for the DVD is made to the guest. If a charge is levied, as in most hotels, then a higher licence fee applies.

Avoiding DVD licences

Smaller businesses may choose to avoid the purchase of a licence by removing DVDs. A licence is not required if guests bring their own DVDs to watch.