Latest legislative updates

Kurt JansonKurt Janson, Director of the Tourism Alliance, gives a monthly update on the latest regulatory changes affecting the hospitality industry. 

Last updated 13th June 2017

Disclaimer:  Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in the Pink Book of Legislation, we regret that we cannot be responsible for any errors. This guide is not intended to be a definitive statement of the law in England. If you require precise or detailed information on the legislation mentioned in this guide, or on the legal implications for you in particular, you should consult a professional legal adviser.

At a glance:

Changes to copyright licences for showing films

  • You may now need an additional licence if you play TV channels that show films in public areas.

A note on TV licences and self-catering properties

  • Kurt provides an overview of the 'hotel licence' and when it applies to self-catering units

Using surveillance equipment on your premises

  • If you have CCTV at your business, you need to comply with the Protection of Freedoms Act and the Data Protection Act.

Changes to copyright for showing films

Copyright licensing for playing music and films on TVs in hospitality businesses can be something of a minefield for small operators, with the need to get up to four different licences depending on the range of services that you provide to customers. There is the added complexity of getting the right version of each type of licence you require, which depends upon the size of your establishment and where in the establishment the copyright material is being played.

Up until now there has been 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.  As such, you now need to gain a licence through the Motion Picture Licensing Company (MPLC) to provide this service to your customers. As with PPL and PRS 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. A table of the charges is available on the MPLC website.

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.

A note on TV licences and self-catering properties

All tourist accommodation – including self-catering properties – are usually eligible for the ‘Hotel and Mobile Units Television Licence’ (commonly known as a ‘hotel licence’).

This licence, which covers all types of accommodation from hotels through to self-catering units and tents, is needed because you are benefiting financially from providing copyright material to your guests.

The amount that you pay for a hotel licence is based on the number of rooms or units you have. The current rates are:

  • £145 for properties with up to 15 rooms that have televisions installed
  • £145, plus £145.50 for each additional five rooms (or part thereof) for properties with more than 15 rooms

However, the regulations covering TV licencing state that a hotel licence covers one or more units of guest accommodation ‘on the same site’ or ‘within the same premises’. While this is easily understandable when related to hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs, there are some grey areas in the interpretation of the regulations when it comes to self-catering properties or accommodation such as static caravans or yurts.

For example, if you own a number of different self-catering cottages in different locations, you will need a separate licence for each property as they are not ‘on the same site’. Units located on land with separate titles can also be deemed not to be ‘on the same site’ even if the land is contiguous. Similarly, land that is separated by a public thoroughfare such as a road or even a footpath can also be deemed to be not ‘on the same site’.

There is also some ambiguity regarding places being ‘within the same premises’ where different types of accommodation are available on the same piece of land. For example, if you have a B&B with four rooms and two yurts in the grounds, these could be deemed to be two separate operations and each operation would need its own licence.

A reasonable rule of thumb in this situation is that if you simply allocate a unit to a guest when they arrive, the more likely it is that the premises will be covered by a single hotel licence. However, if the accommodation types you provide are not interchangeable (i.e., the guest books a particular type), the more likely it is that you will need a separate licence for each one or each grouping of units.

It is always advisable to contact TV Licensing directly to check that you have the right licence for the specific circumstances of your business.

  • Note: Remember, depending on the circumstances, you may also need a PRS licence, PPL licence, MPLC licence or a Filmbank licence (if you also provide DVDs for guest use). For more information on licensing, read the TV & Copyright licences section.

Using surveillance equipment on your premises

Over recent years the cost of buying and installing surveillance systems has dropped considerably. Their use is now becoming more prevalent in small accommodation businesses who want to safeguard their property and that of their guests.

However, it is very important to get the right balance between justifiable reasons for surveillance and a guests’ right to privacy.

There are two main Acts that cover the use of CCTVs and other surveillance equipment – the Protection of Freedoms Act and the Data Protection Act. The first covers when and where it is justifiable to use CCTV equipment and the second covers the treatment of the data that is gained from its use.

Protection of Freedoms Act

The starting point of the Protection of Freedoms Act is that people have a fundamental right to privacy and this can only be encroached upon if there is a legitimate reason to do so. It is not acceptable to install surveillance equipment simply because you “want to keep an eye on what was going on”.

You must also only use surveillance equipment if there is no other practical way to solve a problem that doesn’t impact on guests’ right to privacy. For example, if there had been thefts from a particular area, ways of restricting access to that area should be considered before you install surveillance equipment.

Surveillance equipment can only be used if the encroachment on people’s right to privacy is proportionate to the purpose for which the equipment is being used. However, there are no hard and fast rules as to what is a proportionate because each circumstance will involve differing levels of both justification and privacy.

For example, protecting customers’ possessions could be a justifiable for installing a CCTV camera in reception where people don’t expect privacy but it would not be justifiable in the guests’ bedroom where they would expect a very high level of privacy.

Conversely, installing a CCTV in a communal lounge would not normally be justifiable, but could become justifiable if there had been a spate on thefts from this area. However, it is important to note that, in this situation, the justification would end once the person committing the thefts was identified or the thefts ended.

Importantly, when you do use surveillance equipment guests should be made aware that they are being monitored, who is undertaking the activity and the purpose for which that information is to be used. Again, the greater the extent that a guest’s privacy is being encroached, the more important it is that they are fully aware on of the surveillance that is being undertaken.

Data Protection Act

Provided that there is justification for using the surveillance equipment was justified, then there is the issue of how use handle and store the data you collect. This comes under both the Privacy Act and the Data Protection Act.

Again, the handling and storage of this data need to be proportionate to the justification for collecting it in the first place. You must have very clear guidelines as to who has access to the monitoring equipment and the stored data. The greater the extent that you are encroaching on guests’ privacy, the greater the restrictions should be on access to the monitoring equipment and the data. 

The length of time that you keep the data should also be proportionate to the justification for using the surveillance equipment. For example, if the equipment is being used to monitor a pool to ensure that there are no accidents, then there would be little justification for storing the data beyond the period that the pool was being used (i.e., it should be deleted at the end of each day as its storage is no longer warranted). However, if the equipment was being used to monitor the guests’ carpark, then it could be justifiable to keep the data for longer in case a customer returned home and later found a dent that they thought happened while at your premises.

To help businesses in their use of surveillance equipment, the Home Office has produced the following 12 point code of practice:

  • 1.Use of a surveillance camera system must always be for a specified purpose which is in pursuit of a legitimate aim and necessary to meet an identified pressing need.
  • 2. The use of a surveillance camera system must take into account its effect on individuals and their privacy, with regular reviews to ensure its use remains justified.
  • 3. There must be as much transparency in the use of a surveillance camera system as possible, including a published contact point for access to information and complaints.
  • 4. There must be clear responsibility and accountability for all surveillance camera system activities including images and information collected, held and used.
  • 5. Clear rules, policies and procedures must be in place before a surveillance camera system is used, and these must be communicated to all who need to comply with them.
  • 6. No more images and information should be stored other than that which is strictly required for the stated purpose of a surveillance camera system, and such images and information should be deleted once their purposes have been discharged.
  • 7. Access to retained images and information should be restricted and there must be clearly defined rules on who can gain access and for what purpose such access is granted; the disclosure of images and information should only take place when it is necessary for such a purpose or for law enforcement purposes.
  • 8. Surveillance camera system operators should consider any approved operational, technical and competency standards relevant to a system and its purpose and work to meet and maintain those standards.
  • 9. Surveillance camera system images and information should be subject to appropriate security measures to safeguard against unauthorised access and use.
  • 10. There should be effective review and audit mechanisms to ensure legal requirements, policies and standards are complied with in practice, and regular reports should be published.
  • 11. When the use of a surveillance camera system is in pursuit of a legitimate aim, and there is a pressing need for its use, it should then be used in the most effective way to support public safety and law enforcement with the aim of processing images and information of evidential value.
  • 12. Any information used to support a surveillance camera system which compares against a reference database for matching purposes should be accurate and kept up to date.

For more information, see the full Surveillance Camera Code of Practice.