House of Commons Library

Playing music in public

Published Monday, March 11, 2019

This Library Paper gives a very brief overview of when an organisation needs a licence to play music in public.

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Members of Parliament sometimes receive enquiries from constituents asking why their organisation or business needs a licence to play music.

This is a copyright issue. Under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, permission is needed from the relevant copyright holders – those who create, record and publish music – in order to play or perform music in public.

There is no statutory definition of "playing in public", but the courts have ruled that it is "any playing of music outside of a domestic setting".

PRS for Music licenses the public performance of original musical works, however performed (i.e. live or otherwise), on behalf of the composers, writers and publishers of music.

PPL licenses the public performance of sound recordings on behalf of record companies and the musicians on the recording.

PPL and PRS for Music have set up PPL PRS Ltd to offer a single joint music licence for organisations and businesses playing music in public.

Any queries about the need for a licence – or its cost – should be put to PPL PRS Ltd.

If complaints cannot be resolved, they can be taken to Ombudsman Services.


Commons Briefing papers SN04899

Author: John Woodhouse

Topic: Intellectual property

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