With growing technology, UK residents are forever switching on their favourite TV programmes or radio stations throughout the day, on a number of different devices, without giving it a second thought. Yet for UK pubs, doing so can be a potentially harmful act for their business. There are certain laws and regulations that stipulate a variety of different things for pub owners to consider, and failure to do so can result in serious consequences.
In the summer of 2017, the Premier League announced that charges of up to £200,000 had been applied to 22 pubs across the UK, for the illegal broadcasting of their football matches. They also suggested that the current season would see a rigorous programme for the protection of copyright, with pubs facing investigations and potentially legal action. However, it isn’t just sport broadcasts that UK pubs can be in trouble for, as there are a number of other forms of entertainment that pubs can face action for.
The use of music can often be very important to the running of pubs, and to attracting the public into their pub, yet without the correct measures in place, this can actually be very damaging to your business. Regardless of how you play the music, if you do indeed play it within your pub, you are required to pay royalties to whoever originally created it. In order to do this, two main licences have been created, with the Phonographic Performance Ltd collecting royalties for performers and record companies, and the Performing Right Society collecting royalties for songwriters, composers and publishers.
Many pub owners believe that buying the music is enough for them to play it, yet this is only the case for private usage, and not for use within their pub. This area can often be very difficult for pub owners to understand, especially if they are new to the industry, so it is advised that they check with PPL and PRS before playing any music.
When looking to show films on their premises, pubs can make use of an MPLC umbrella licence, of which allows pubs to show films to viewing areas of no more than 500sqm. This would cover pubs showing films, however if the pub was to charge its customers for tickets or entry to the screening, then they would need to obtain a single title licence. This licence would enable pubs to charge for the film screening, but would cost at least £75 +VAT, or 35% of ticket sales, depending on which figure is higher.
As well as considering copyright laws for films, pubs would also need a specific licence from their local authority, in order to show any films, helping to regulate any age-classified content that is shown.
Broadcasting Free-to-Air Television
As is common knowledge, in order to use a television within the UK, you are required to hold a UK TV licence, and pubs require a separate licence to show within their domestic and public areas. Any pub found to be without the correct licence would therefore be breaking the law, and could be fined up to £1,000.
For any pubs that do broadcast free-to-air television, it is advised that they check with broadcasters to ensure that they are able to broadcast their programmes, gaining the correct permission. The MPLC umbrella licence is also something that pubs could look into, as they claim that their licence covers approximately two thirds of free-to-air television programmes, however it is still advised to contact broadcasters to check.
Broadcasting Pay-to-View Television
In order for a pub to show pay-to-view or restricted access television, such as Sky Sports, they are required to be in possession of a commercial subscription, of which acts as a licence. Broadcasting Sky programmes without the correct subscription is illegal and could see the owners face criminal prosecution, including serious penalties and potentially a criminal record. It is thought that the Federation Against Copyright Theft, the body that targets pubs committing offences, obtains most of its insightful information from competitors, as people abiding by the law more than willing to give up those that aren’t.
Stuart Jessop is an experienced licensing barrister in London, specialising in all areas of licensing law including alcohol, entertainment, firearms and taxi licensing.