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The Rise in Court Cases for Unlicensed Music and Streaming in Pubs

Nov 9, 2017 10:50:45 AM published by James Luck

sj-email-is-your-music-legal-640x256.jpgIn the past few years, court cases relating to unlicensed streaming in pubs has significantly and dramatically increased, as more individuals are finding themselves in hot water for exploiting unlicensed music and TV streaming. Unlicensed streaming, which is to play a music or TV stream in your business's premises without the necessary rights to legality can implicate an organisation with severe fines, or possibly even banned from operating all together. When it comes to music or TV streaming in your pub, restaurant or club - an individual must be using appropriate hardware or software that gives the end user the legality to play such stream to an audience, as well as the appropriate licensing. To play in any public setting, you must have a PPL - a Public Performance Licence.

There are many reasons that could be put into consideration as to why the rise in court cases for unlicensed streaming in pubs has dramatically increased, one of these being a parallel popularity increase for streaming services such as Apple Music and on the other hand - Kodi boxes and online freemium sport streaming. With the technological world moving towards TV & music streaming as the best convenience option, businesses have taken advantage of these free options available online - sometimes playing their playlists and featuring unlicensed TV streams in pubs, restaurants and clubs across the UK. But why not? It may seem beneficial to do so, as the ease of usage is second to none -- and with many being completely oblivious to the legality case in point, it brings with it a nightmare for those that end up getting caught.

An analysis of copyright cases has discovered that from January to March of 2017, claims against nightclubs, pubs and restaurants that have used music without a licence or the appropriate royalties amassed 23% of the 106 High Court cases brought by PPL, with the organisation finding it easier to go after venues such as pubs to penalise, rather than individuals. It is said that football and music bodies are currently the top three most frequent claimants in court proceedings, outdoing both Barclays Banks and HMRC in their number of claims.

Legal vs. Illegal Music Streaming


The line between understanding the boundaries of legality and illegality with music in your business can be one of which is quite blurred, however music licensing doesn’t have to be that difficult.

Online music streaming services such as Apple Music and other related competitors are seen as B2C services, business to consumer. These are not allowed to be played in public to your customers or employees, but can be played in a private location for non-commercial purposes, such as in your home with your friends or family. Even so, if you were to utilise a commercial service provider such as Soundnet, you’d have the dubbing side covered but you’d still have to pay for the public performance licence.

So how can you ensure that the avenue of which you’d like to play music via is valid and legal? There are two main options:

  • Apply for the licences in your jurisdiction to play background music. The normal valid licences necessary would be a PRS Licence and a PPL licence.
  • Install background music technology from a PPL registered background music provider, suppliers of which can be explored on the official PPL website. This will ensure you’ll install technology which’ll come with legally compliant background music and it’s correlating licences already catered for.

With soundjack, you can be sure you’ll get background music technology for your pubs and bars that are fully legal, with copying licences being paid for. You’ll also be able to rest assured that when playing music within your business, you’ll be playing by the rules.

For more information on the legalities relating to music in your business, explore our Background Music & The Law fact sheet.

Topics: Background Music

Written by James Luck