TV and copyright licences

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.

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 or if it is performed live, you may need a PRS for Music licence.

  • If you play recorded music in public on your premises (this includes radio and TVs) you may need a PPL licence.

  • 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.

 

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 £145.50.

  • If you have more than 15 units, you will pay one full fee for the first 15 and an additional £145.50 for every extra 5 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.

 

Copyright licences for music

You will need to obtain copyright licences 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 are two separate licences which relate to recorded music:

  • PRS for Music licence - This licence relates to the music itself
  • PPL licence - This licence relates to the recording.

PRS for music licence

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 PRS for Music (formerly the Performing Right Society) has been formed to help you meet your legal obligations. You can 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
    • The premises is not licensed for the sale of alcohol
    • 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 PRS for Music Code of Practice clarifies the rights and responsibilities of PRS for Music and businesses that provide music. An ombudsman has also been established to oversee PRS for Music'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 PRS for Music (see Further Guidance below). If a licence is required, PRS for Music has a hotel and restaurant tariff with a separate section for background music in hotel rooms, corridors and foyers via TV or radio (up to 15 rooms with facilities restricted to overnight guests). The current rate (to July 2017) is £50.29 +VAT per 15 bedrooms or part thereof.

There is also a Small Residential Hotels rate of £128.13 (to July 2017) that allows premises of 15 or fewer letting bedrooms that restricts the use of all its facilities to its residential guests to provide music in any part of the property, including breakfast rooms and lounges.

The full list of tariffs includes other uses of music including:

  • the playing of recorded music (i.e CDs, DVDs or digital files)
  • live music
  • discos and karaoke machines.

The use of TVs and radios in guests' bedrooms is also covered by these tariffs.

  • 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

PRS for Music licence tariffs vary in accordance with the type of performance (live or recorded), the type of premises, the occasion and the frequency of performances.

Holders of a PRS for Music licence will pay the standard royalty rate. For those who have not applied and obtained a licence before the performance, a surcharge of 50% will be applied to the standard rate for the first year. From the second year, all royalties will be charged according to the standard rate.

You can obtain more information by contacting the PRS for Music Customer Service Centre on 0800 068 4828 or by visiting their website.

 

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.

You can obtain more information and a copy of the PRS for Music code of practice by contacting PRS for Music directly on 0800 068 4828 or by visiting their website.

 

Phonographic Performance Limited licences

While PRS for Music licences relate to the copyright in the music itself, there is a separate licence issued by Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) which relates to the actual recording, whether on a CD, tape, record or digitally downloaded.

Do I need a PPL licence?

Yes: if you play music in public (this includes the non-residential areas of B&Bs where either customers or staff are allowed) from a record, tape, compact disc, video or digital device, you require a licence (although probably not for activities by charitable bodies).

Probably: if you play music in public from the radio or television (although not usually for activities by not-for-profit bodies).

There are a range of PPL licences with different tariffs. These include licences for:

  • the use of sound recordings as background music in public areas such as foyers, bars and dining rooms
  • the use of sound recordings as a featured attraction on the premises (such as dances and discos)
  • the use of sound recordings as part of the phone system
  • playing music videos.

The cost of the licence varies according to use. The 2017 Small Residential Hotels & Guest Houses licence fee for the provision of music in the bedrooms of hotels with no more than 25 bedrooms is £59.79 per annum. There are separate fees for the provision of music in public areas of the hotel, such as dining rooms and foyers, and a range of discounts related to the size of the premises. Further information on the range of tariffs and discount is available on the PPL website or by phoning PPL on 020 7534 1070.

 

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 - 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 their 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 their 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. 

 

Further guidance