Get the right licences for playing and screening

Posted: Tuesday, 8 August 2017 @ 10:56

What licences do you need to screen entertainment and play music in your venue? These requirements apply if you are entertaining the public in your venue or just entertaining your staff.

Screening TV and films

First of all you may need appropriate licenses from a satellite broadcaster to screen such things as live sport. But that is not all you will need if you show TV shows and films.

Over a year ago changes to Section 72 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 came into force, with the effect that the showing of copyrighted material requires a MPLC licence. This is a licence from the Motion Picture Licensing Company, a worldwide purveyor of film and TV rights. So if you show any copyrighted material, say TV shows and films, whether or not it is broadcast on TV or played from a DVD or indeed viewed over the internet,and whether or not the sound is turned on, it will be necessary to obtain an MPLC licence. This is also the case if the screening only takes place in common staff areas (it is ok in manager’ accommodation).

But there is an exception. An MPLC licence is not needed if you are just showing sports, news or music channels. But of course you may need the appropriate licence for screening live sport on non terrestrial channels.

There are 3 categories of licence depending on whether the venue is a pub/bar, a hotel, and restaurants/cafes. For examples the tariff for pubs and bars depends on the size of the area in which TV and other screens are situated. £95 plus VAT for up to 500m2, £142.50 plus VAT for up to 750m2 , £190 plus VAT for up to 1000m2, and for over 1000m2 an extra £9.50 per 50m2.

To check the full details go to the MPLC website by clicking here.

Playing Recorded Music

If you play recorded music in your premises, even if it is only in staff rooms, you will need to have an appropriate licence to play recorded music from the organisations which represent the composers or performers of the original material.

This involves intellectual property, the copyright in the recorded music, which cannot be played without a licence. For the individual playing a CD, record, or tape in private is not breach, because with the purchase comes the right to use that recorded music for personal enjoyment. But the playing of recorded music in public or the broadcast of recorded music on the radio or TV requires a licence from PPL.

PPL collects these fees on behalf of the performer concerned and record company members. So if you play recorded music commercially, in a workplace or other public place, and this would include places to which the public have access, you will require a PPL licence. But it is not just PPL who may need to licence the use. There is another organisation, PRS for Music, which collects royalties on behalf of songwriters, composers and music publishers. It "licenses the use of its members' musical compositions and lyrics when they are played in public, broadcast on the radio or TV, used on the internet or copied onto physical products such as CDs or DVDs". So if this applies to you 2 licenses will be required, one from PPL and another from PRS for Music. To learn more about the licensing process go to the ppluk website by clicking here.

For free advice on this topic please call us on 0845 003 5639.

This blog is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor is it intended to be a complete and authoritative statement of the law, and what we say might be out of date by the time you read it. You should always seek legal advice to confirm whether or how any information in this article applies to your particular situation. We offer a free telephone consultation to discuss your particular circumstances.


  • I’m incensed. My mother lives in a sheltered housing scheme where approximately 10 residents would like to get together once a week in the evening to watch a film together. They have been informed by the housing providers management that an MPLC licence costing £2300 is required. This is ludicrous, if this is the case I’m going to start a crusade for a change in the law. The elderly people of this country are getting hammered every single second of every single day. It’s a complete disgrace. Could you advise if this is correct before I embark on a national crusade for a change in the legislation in the UK. Regards Mark Brown.By Mark Brown15 Apr 19, 8:12pm
  • Hi Graham, Thanks for the enquiry. BBC1 and ITV are terrestial free to air channels which do not normally require a commercial subscription so showing sport or other programmes as they are broadcast on these channels where no admission fee is charged to watch will be ok. But you will need a PPL and PRS licence to cover any music broadcast within the screening. I hope that this answers your question. Kind regards Nigel Musgrove, Solicitor, Cousins Business LawBy Nigel Musgrove6 Feb 19, 10:41am
  • Do we need an MPLC Licence if we are just showing sport (6 Nations rugby) on BBC1 and ITV. The TV's are switched off immediately after the broadcast has finished and we show nothing else on our TV's across the year?By Graham5 Feb 19, 11:42am
  • Hi Alex, thank you for your enquiry. If you are just using your digital TV to play for example a digital music channel such as Radio 1, then an MPLC licence will not be required, but a PPL and PRS licence would be necessary. If the TV is on even though it is showing a TV music programme and you are just listening to the music and not watching the programme, an MPLC licence will still be required. I hope that this answers your question. Nigel Musgrove Solicitor Cousins Business LawBy Nigel Musgrove16 Aug 18, 3:37pm
  • Is this still the case re music on tv as my boss had a phone call from MPLC stating that it makes no difference what programme is on, so music (which is all we show on the tv) we need a license, all be it we have now removed the TV.By Alex16 Aug 18, 11:00am
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Thank you. Your response is great, very straight to the point! Hopefully this will bring an end to the matter. I will certainly be recommending your services as I am very impressed with the prompt dealing of this matter.
Janet Burbidge

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