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Festivals Toolkit: Artistic Programming: Copyright

In addition to obtaining a licence for the premises/space where your event will take place you also need to think about licences for the performance of live and recorded music with respect to the copyright interests of performers, songwriters/composers, record companies and music publishers. The relevant organisations to contact are:
  • Performing Rights Society 
    PRS issues licenses for the performance of copyright music in any location or premises, outside of home, where music is played from clubs to concert halls, from discos to dentists’ waiting rooms and from trains to takeaways. The owner/proprietor of the premises is normally responsible for obtaining a PRS Music Licence.
  • Phonographic Performance Limited
    PPL issues licences to all who use sound recordings (records, tapes, CDs) in their transmissions. It also licenses clubs, shops, pubs, restaurants, bars and grills and thousands of other music users who play sound recordings in public.

The following notes have been adapted from information published by PPL.

Is PPL the same as PRS?
No, PPL is not the same as the Performing Right Society (PRS). Whenever you play a sound recording in public there are two separate licence fees that have to be paid. There is a copyright in the musical and lyrical composition and a separate copyright in the actual sound recording. One payment goes to PPL, which it distributes to record companies and performers. The other payment goes to PRS who distribute it to composers and publishers.

When is a PPL Public Performance licence required?
Under UK copyright law (the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988) a PPL licence is required when sound recordings subject to PPL control are played in public. By ‘public’ it means any event except a family or domestic gathering. An event such as an office party, a Christmas disco or a Valentine’s Day dinner dance is public. An example of a private event would be a wedding reception or birthday party.

Many people ask, “If it’s my CD, why can’t I play it whenever and wherever I want?” Owning a sound recording does not give them an automatic right to play it in public. Very occasionally, when sound recordings are played solely to raise money for charity, PPL may waive the licence fee. If you think your event falls into this special category, you should mention it when you apply for your licence.

Other relevant organisations are:
Musicians Union 

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