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Music in the Workplace

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Music in the workplace is common and increasingly easy to access with the options of streaming online material as well as the more traditional radio and CD options. If music is ‘broadcast’ to (ie played within the hearing of) customers or colleagues, a licence is likely to be required and this does include ‘music on hold’ and, of course, any music made available online via the business website. If music is played without licence, there is a real risk of enforcement steps being taken and a finding that the employer is acting in breach of copyright.

It is not always a appreciated that a licence is required – let alone that 2 separate licences may be needed. Copyright subsists in the words and music (the rights of the lyricist and composer) and also in the performance (the rights of the recording artists and recording companies). These distinct rights are administered by two separate bodies.

Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) administers a licensing scheme for the rights subsisting in the performance whilst PRS for Music Ltd (PRS) operates a licensing scheme for the benefit of the creators of the music – the composers and writers.

In many cases, licences will be needed from both organisations – though the PRS licence may not be required if the music – by Mozart, Vivaldi or Handel, perhaps – is no longer copyright. The likelihood is that the performance and recording will still be copyright and a PPL licence therefore necessary.

There are, of course, also some ‘copyright free’ sources of music.

If you are in doubt about the requirements please refer to the PPL and PRS websites or contact us for further advice.