New Licence Demand for Pubs and Hotels

Pubs and hotels are being asked to pay for a licence to play television on their premises by a company that collects royalties on behalf of screen rights holders such as Hollywood studios and television production companies.

The licence is in addition to those required for the performance and playing of music and the screening of sports events broadcast by Sky and other streaming services. It is required even if the premises shows only news bulletins.

Irish hospitality and retail outlets have received letters telling them to buy an annual “umbrella licence” if they have a television that can be seen by customers or staff. Motion Picture Licensing Company (MPLC), which is backed by Tenzing private equity, wants companies to buy licences ranging in price from €169 to €360, even if the television is only in the staff canteen.

A number of pubs have received letters in recent weeks seeking payment from MPLC’s Irish branch, which is based in Ennis, Co Clare. The letters tell the business owner that a licence has not been bought for their address and that they should pay up if they have a television and cites copyright law. An application form comes attached to the letter, instructing the business owner to pay according to the size of the premises.

MPLC is a registered collector of royalties for the public performance of works owned by screen rights holders, in much the same way that the Irish Music Rights Organisation collects royalties for music played publicly. 

The Vintners Federation of Ireland, which represents publicans based outside the capital, said it was “very surprised” that MPLC wants its members to pay for the right to show the news to customers. It said it was seeking further clarification from the company. Sources in the industry said the demand for payment in relation to the news was sure to be tested.

MPLC’s rationale for asking businesses to buy an annual licence to show the news is partially based on the contention that because Getty Images is one of its rightsholders, it is possible that television news reports could unexpectedly show some of its content, or the content of other rightsholders.

MPLC is understood to have emailed publican representatives at the beginning of this month to say that since Getty has now been added to its system, “news is now to be covered”.