Licensed to thrill?


Date: 15 June 2010

At a time when salary increases and financial incentives aren't always commercially viable, some employers are resorting to more entertaining techniques to keep staff's morale high in the present economic climate.

Putting a television in the workplace is an example: in a current Law Donut post, Over-refreshed and Misbehaving: the World Cup in the workplace, Michael Scutt issued a timely reminder to those employers planning to show World Cup matches live that if a television arrives on work premises it will need a TV licence and, if live football is being streamed to the workplace through the internet, a TV licence is also required for that.

Playing music at work is another boost. Whether that music is on in the background or used after hours to create a more sociable buzz, sourced ad hoc from the radio or more strategically from a digital playlist service such as Spotify, it's considered to be a public performance; and playing music in public requires a licence, otherwise you are likely to be infringing copyright. The simplest way to get a licence is via the PPL and the Performing Rights Society, the PRS . These organisations distribute the proceeds of the licences to the rights holders: the PPL pays the performers, record companies and other royalty rights holders; the PRS pays composers, songwriters and publishers.

The alternative to getting your licence to play music at work would be to approach each individual performer, record company and rights holder to obtain their permission - an impossible task.

Depending on the type of business you have, and the way you use music, there is a licence type for you: PPL Tariff and PRS Tariff.

If a business does not obtain the correct licence the royalty holders, but most likely the PPL or PRS, could enforce a licence against the business via a court order. A court order comes with a fine of up to £10,000 and even a prison sentence.

The PPL and PRS carry out spot-checks on businesses to ensure compliance. A recent high profile case of a hairdresser refusing to obtain a licence for music being played in the salon shows the problem in action.

And while we're on the subject of licences, do your employees access, share or copy information published online or in the traditional hard-copy format? Or does your business receive daily press cuttings? If so, and most businesses do, then you need to make sure that you are minimising the risk of copyright infringement in your business by obtaining a licence from the CLA.

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