UK: Licensing Of Music For Public Spaces: What´s A Fair Price To Pay?

Last Updated: 4 November 2009
Article by Susan Barty and Tom Scourfield

The Copyright Tribunal has determined that the increase in rates charged by the Phonographic Performance Limited ("PPL") for licences that permitted licensees, such as pubs, shops, factories and offices, to be able to play music in their public spaces, were disproportionate. The PPL had implemented a new pricing structure to reflect changes in the law and sought to put a greater emphasis on the size of the establishment when determining the rates payable. This resulted in some increases in rates for the largest shops/supermarkets of almost 200% and for the largest pubs and restaurants it was over 400%. The Copyright Tribunal held that the new pricing structure was inappropriate and, therefore, ordered a return to the previous tariff scheme and imposed a 10% limit on the increase in rates from the previous rates that had been used.

To view the article in full, please see below:

Full Article

The Copyright Tribunal has determined that the increase in rates charged by the Phonographic Performance Limited ("PPL") for licences that permitted licensees, such as pubs, shops, factories and offices, to be able to play music in their public spaces, were disproportionate. The PPL had implemented a new pricing structure to reflect changes in the law and sought to put a greater emphasis on the size of the establishment when determining the rates payable. This resulted in some increases in rates for the largest shops/supermarkets of almost 200% and for the largest pubs and restaurants it was over 400%. The Copyright Tribunal held that the new pricing structure was inappropriate and, therefore, ordered a return to the previous tariff scheme and imposed a 10% limit on the increase in rates from the previous rates that had been used.

Role of the Tribunal

The Copyright Tribunal is responsible for deciding issues where parties cannot agree between themselves the terms and conditions of licences offered by a collective licensing body. A licence is required to be permitted to play music in a public space such as in shops, offices, factories, restaurants, leisure facilities and hotels. The PPL, a non-profit making collecting society, whose members include the majority of record companies, is responsible for issuing such licences in return for a fee. Following the implementation of a new tariff scheme at the beginning of 2006, which resulted in a large upward increase in the level of rates charged to licensees, a referral was made to the Copyright Tribunal by the Secretary of State to review the terms of the scheme that had been implemented. Representations were made by Interested Parties (including the British Hospitality Association, the British Beer and Pub Association and the British Retail Consortium) who opposed the increases. The Tribunal's role was to form its own judgement as to whether the referred scheme was reasonable in all the circumstances.

Changes to the existing scheme

The PPL's new scheme involved substantial changes to the way that the existing rates were calculated. The PPL's reasons for the changes were to reflect changes in the law, bring the level of the fees up-to-date and to create a more accurate correlation between the size of the establishment and the rates charged to an establishment. The increase for the largest establishments in particular was significant, for example, the highest increase, which was in relation to the largest pubs and restaurants, was 419%.

The Interested Parties challenged the new scheme on the basis that it constituted an enormous and unjustified rise in the rates. They argued that compared with the previous tariff (which had been negotiated and agreed) the increases were excessive.

Key points

The main arguments put forward by the PPL as to the reasons for the changes to the rates are summarised below, as are the Tribunal's response to these arguments:

  • a change in the law, which meant that the public performance of sound recordings, such as on the radio, was now an act restricted by copyright. This meant that the PPL should legitimately be permitted to charge higher rates to licensees. The Tribunal accepted that this justified some increase in rates, but not the very substantial increases that the new tariffs represented.
  • the PPL's new scheme was not unreasonable when compared with other licence collecting bodies, such as the Performing Rights Society ("PRS"), which collects royalties in relation to public performances and recording or distribution to the public of their members' music. The PPL contended that the PRS charged higher rates than both the old and new PPL system. The Tribunal dismissed the relevance of these higher fees as the PRS's fees had been available as a comparable at the time of previous negotiations between the parties and yet they had not affected the rates on those occasions.
  • playing background music is very important for the licensees and adds value to their business. The Tribunal dismissed this argument because the value added to the business would already have been taken into account in previous licence negotiations, therefore, since there was no discernible evidence of a dramatic increase in the value of the PPL's repertoire of music since the last set of negotiations, it did not need to be taken into account this time.
  • the total amounts that the licensees' pay under the licences is not very large. The Tribunal determined that this was also an irrelevant consideration.

Basis for new rates

In rejecting the new scheme adopted by the PPL, the Tribunal explained that it had reached 10% as the permitted increase in rates as result of a value judgement rather than a precise mathematical calculation: it had taken into account that due to the change in law an increase of some kind was appropriate; the case for a modest increase when compared with the PRS Tariff; and the alternative proposal put forward by the Interested Parties.

Additional Issues

Two further points are worth noting. First, licensees will be pleased to learn that the new definition of "audible area" under the scheme, which included the total area in which music can be heard on the premises and was not restricted to the areas to which customers have access, was rejected and the original definition in the previous tariff re-instated. Secondly, it was determined that for the first year of the licence the PPL is allowed to impose a 50% surcharge on the rates if the licensee had been playing music without first obtaining a licence. This is intended to provide an incentive for licensees to pay in a timely manner.


This decision shows that in certain circumstances it is worth making a complaint about the level of licence fee increases that are being made by a collecting society, as the Tribunal is willing to take a firm stance against disproportionate increases. It is also interesting to note that the complaint was made by industry bodies rather than individual licensees. This is indicative of how strongly licensees objected to the increases in rates and the widespread nature of the concern.

Phonographic Performance Limited v British Hospitality Association, the British Retail Consortium and other interested parties

This article was written for Law-Now, CMS Cameron McKenna's free online information service. To register for Law-Now, please go to

Law-Now information is for general purposes and guidance only. The information and opinions expressed in all Law-Now articles are not necessarily comprehensive and do not purport to give professional or legal advice. All Law-Now information relates to circumstances prevailing at the date of its original publication and may not have been updated to reflect subsequent developments.

The original publication date for this article was 03/11/2009.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.