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Copyright Licensing

Copyright licensing

The Churches Legislation Advisory Service (CLAS) has been heavily involved in negotiations over the ending of the charity exemption under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 – with limited success. 

Under the new regime public venues, including those used by a charity or not-for-profit organisation, which play music from records, CDs, radio or television will require a licence both from PPL (previously known as Phonographic Performance Limited) and from the Performing Right Society (aka PRS for Music). The new system is brought into force by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (Amendment) Regulations 2010, whose key provision is to repeal section 67 of the 1988 Act – the section that currently exempts organisations whose ‘main objects are charitable or are otherwise concerned with the advancement of religion, education or social welfare.’

The changes in the law in relation to PL came into effect on 1 January 2011.

Under PPL’s new system:

  • there will be a flat rate of £40 for organisations with a ‘defined income’ of up to £10,000 and 1% of defined income thereafter: the Government  estimates that the £40 tariff should cover more than 60 per cent of community buildings.
  • the licence for community buildings has been extended to cover outdoor events like village fetes and carnivals.
  • if organisations believe they have been treated unfairly by PPL they will be able to appeal to a new independent reviewer.
  • PPL and PRS for Music will create a single licensing system so that organisations will only have to make one application.

CLAS advises that their understanding is that ‘defined income’ excludes income from donations and legacies, so on that basis the vast majority of churches that make any use of recorded music should qualify for the £40 flat rate. It should be emphasised, however, that PRS for Music also operates a licensing system for which the basic tariff is £40, so small organisations that use recorded music will be paying about £80 in total.
PPL will operate the same voluntary exceptions as PRS for Music does: religious services, family occasions such as wedding-receptions (which are regarded as private events rather than public ones), domestic use of music in care homes and use in NHS hospital wards and in medical treatments taking place in NHS hospitals.

The general licensing rules

CLAS had a query from a member who had received an exploratory letter from Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI), the umbrella body which issues licences to churches that provide copyright cover for such activities as photocopying, performing music and playing records and DVDs. The query was whether or not one requires a licence in order to show a film on DVD to a youth group gathered in a private home.
Copyright is a minefield and what follows is CLAS’s attempt to set out what they understand to be the current rules.

  • As noted above, playing music or showing films during acts of worship is currently exempt from the various licensing regimes, however, if you photocopymusic in order to perform it during a church service you should have a Music Reproduction Licence in respect of the music and a Church Copyright Licence in respect of the words.
  • Playing recorded music at (eg) a wedding reception is not covered by the licensing regime because a wedding reception is a private occasion rather than a public one.

Apart from those situations, you need a licence to:

  • photocopy, whether you are photocopying music and words or books and magazines;
  • play music (live or from CDs) outside of service times;
  • make audio or video recordings of services for non-commercial use (which includes people using camcorders at weddings);
  • make audio or video recordings of services for sale;
  • show films or DVDs other than during a church service;
  • download song lyrics from the Internet.

There is a useful quick guide to the various licences on the CCLI website, from which this information has been taken.

Finally, what about showing DVDs or playing recorded music in private homes? CLAS’s contention is that so long as one does not charge friends and neighbours for the privilege, showing a DVD does not engage the licensing regime because:

  • there is no charge;
  • the world at large is not being invited, so it is not a public occasion; and
  • the showing is taking place in a private house rather than a public building.

On that basis, the fact that members of (for example) a church youth-group are present should make no difference. But do not be in the least surprised if someone decides that this is wrong.

[Sources: Intellectual Property Office Press Release – 8 November 2010: CCLI Website – 18 November 2010]