Copyright Music

Playing Copyright Music

This information explains our understanding of the music copyright regulations as we understand them to apply to our business. In no sense does it constitute legal advice.

For detailed advice, or to arrange a licence, please contact:

  • Performing Rights Society (PRS) on 08000 68 48 28 or visit their website
  • Phonographic Performance Ltd. on 020 7534 1000 or visit their website

In general once a piece of music, or a song, has been published it is protected by law from unauthorised public performance or copying. When you as a private individual purchase a copy of the music or song, regardless of what form that copy is in, you are granted the rights to perform (play) that song for your personal use. You may also be entitled to copy the item from one medium to another – e.g. from CD to iPod or smartphone – for your own use. The term ‘personal use’ is usually taken to include performance within the home to family and friends. You do not have the right to copy that music or song in any other way; for instance burning a CD copy to give to a friend is illegal, although we all know that it is done. Also you do not have the right to perform (play) the music or song in public.

Performing (playing) music ‘in public’ generally means playing it in such a way that members of the general public can hear it. This could mean playing the music on a loud home sound system, or a loud in-car system where the public could hear it unintentionally, or a Public Address system where the public are meant to hear it. In the first two cases, although this is technically illegal, it is rare to hear of anyone being prosecuted for not having the correct licences. In the latter case where music is being played deliberately for the public to hear prosecutions for not having appropriate licences do occur.

To play music in public, such as at a fete, two licences are usually required. The Performing Rights Society (PRS) licence the use of the copyright music and words, whereas Phonographic Performance Ltd. (PPL) licence the use of the patented process by which the music is played. The Mechanical Copyright Protection Society (MCPS) can also be involved, but, we understand that PRS and PPL usually act on their behalf. Some events, usually for charitable or religious purposes, do not require any fee to be paid. However, the event does still require permission to be applied for and granted.

No equipment whether hired or purchased from or through Showlite is licenced to play copyright material. The event organiser or purchaser of the equipment must ensure that they hold the appropriate licences, or exemptions, before the event. If you wish Showlite to play copyright material at your event you must request this in writing. We will supply you with information about obtaining the necessary licences or exemptions, after which we will accept no further responsibility for infringement of the copyright laws. See Condition 22 of our Trading Terms and Conditions.