Machins Solicitors LLP
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Playing Background Music in the Workplace

Posted: 9th December 2011   In: Corporate Commercial

The Background

The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act provides that playing music on CD, radio on television at work is an infringement copyright. The owner of the rights may be entitled to a range of remedies including recovering damages for any losses or seeking an injunction to stop recordings being played. The infringer may even be required to account to the copyright owner for any profit made on playing the music.

If any recorded music is played in the workplace within earshot of colleagues or clients, to avoid falling foul of copyright law, a licence is required.  This includes ‘on hold’ music, radios in offices, factories and shops, internet streaming and CDs being played.

Licensing schemes

Two organisations are responsible for issuing such licences throughout the UK. The Performing Rights Society (trading as PRS or PRS for Music) represents songwriters, composers and publishers.  Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) represents the rights of record companies and performers rights.  Where recorded music is played publicly a licence from both organisations is usually required.

The cost of a licence depends on a number of factors – the type of business, size of the premises, the number of employees and clients within earshot of the music, and the number of hours music is played. 

Exceptions where licences may not be needed

There are a limited number of exceptions and circumstances when a licence is not needed.  For example the licensing organisations at their discretion do not charge a licence fee where music is played as part of formal medical music therapy, where music is played at a home-office, or where music is used in a recognised service of divine worship and other religious or civil partnership ceremonies.

The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act itself provides certain exceptions where playing music would not breach the terms of the Act.  For example public performances of music played in school or colleges for educational purposes.

Alternatively there are schemes available which allow organisations to buy recorded music which is not covered by copyright, where there is little or no royalty to pay and/or no need for annual licences. 

For more information, or to apply for the appropriate licence for your business go to the following websites:

www.prsformusic.com  www.ppluk.com

For further information on the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act or to determine how these rules may affect your business, contact:


Wayne McBean
MACHINS SOLICITORS LLP
01582 514357
[email protected]