The importance of copyright licences

Posted by Nicola Rochon on
A Copyright licence is required to show copyrighted material such as films and TV programmes in public. However, it is not always easy to determine when a showing may be considered public and, as a result, when a licence is required. In particular, this can be an issue for organisations providing accommodation with communal areas such as multiple occupation housing, care homes and sheltered accommodation.

Section 19(3) of The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 states that the playing or showing of a work in public (which includes films) is restricted by copyright and a licence is therefore required. Whether or not a performance is considered to be in public depends entirely on the individual circumstances, however the general rule is that unless the audience can be classed as a domestic or quasi-domestic circle, then the performance will likely be considered to be in public.

Case law on this point has confirmed that a licence may still be required regardless of the size of the audience, whether an admission fee has been charged or whether the audience has been limited to a members-only group. As a result, it is possible that a small weekly gathering of residents in a communal living area to watch a movie could be interpreted as a showing of the work in public, and a licence would therefore be required.

Furthermore, section 26 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 states that if a copyright infringement is committed by the showing of a work in public, then whoever supplied the equipment may also be liable for copyright infringement if they knew or had reason to believe that the equipment was likely to be used to infringe copyright. This means that if a television or DVD player is provided in communal areas of accommodation, there is a possibility that the organisation that provided the equipment could also be liable for any copyright infringement. 

As a golden rule therefore, you should ensure you are fully aware of the type of copyrighted material use that is taking place within your organisation and ensure the appropriate licences are in place for such activity. Copyright infringement is a serious offence and can bring about costly legal proceedings and claims for significant damages. Identifying that you or your organisation may require a licence and obtaining the appropriate licence will help avoid such costly liability.  

If you are unsure whether you or your organisation require a licence, or if you would like further information on this issue, then please contact Blake Morgan's Licensing team.  

About the Author

Nicola Rochon is a Trainee Solicitor in our Employment team based in Southampton.

Nicola Rochon
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