How Do I Avoid Paying the MPLC Licence?

Whatever your organisation, controlling costs is critical. We get it - it’s frustrating to find you need to pay for something you hadn’t budgeted for. But what’s even more annoying - and more costly - is paying for litigation and fines because you didn’t get an MPLC licence. In this article, we cover the following information about MPLC licences:

  • Is an MPLC licence compulsory?
  • Why an MPLC licence is a legal requirement.
  • The risks of not paying for an MPLC licence
  • The types of MPLC licence, including the MPLC Umbrella Licence and the MPLC licence cost.
  • Are there any MPLC licence exemptions?

Is an MPLC licence compulsory? 

If your organisation shows content on a public TV or screen, you could be breaking UK copyright laws. This legislation means it’s only legal for you to display most audiovisual content on a personal basis, typically at home.

If you show TV, films and other audiovisual content in public, in the eyes of the law, this is a public performance. For which you’ll need a public performance licence - even if you’re not charging anyone a fee to watch. 

UK copyright law states when audiovisual content is created, the studios who produce the content own the copyright for public performances. This applies whether the content is shown via broadcast, cable or satellite TV, DVD, Blu Ray, download or internet streaming.

However, copyright owners licence others to publicly perform their content under specific agreements. Businesses, nonprofits and even government entities must secure a licence to show copyrighted works.  


The risks of not paying for a licence for your organisation 

Infringement is usually a civil offence and any damages awarded are decided on a case-by-case basis. The more blatant the infringement, the bigger the fines tend to be. Individual officers can be held responsible and employees can also be personally liable in certain circumstances.

If found guilty, you can find yourself paying some very expensive fines. 

Here’s how it works. Every time you show audiovisual content without an MPLC Umbrella Licence, you can be fined. A one-off fine might not sound too bad, but it’s unlikely your organisation would only be penalised once. That’s because the legislation provides for multiple sanctions - one for each episode or film that’s shown.

Let’s say you have your public TV on all day:

  • At 10am This Morning  comes on - that’s an infringement.
  • At 10.30, Bargain Hunt plays - another infringement. 
  • This is followed by Jurassic Park - another infringement.
  • At 1pm Antiques Roadshow - another infringement.

That’s four infringements by lunchtime. Each of which would be taken into consideration by the court when awarding damages.

The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act authorises the award of substantial fines and penalties for infringement of copyright. The act also allows the court to increase the damages awarded depending on how blatant the infringement is.  


Avoid litigation and stay legal with an MPLC licence

To avoid the legal hassle and significant expense that can come from breaking UK copyright law, you simply need to get MPLC’s Umbrella Licence.

This licence enables organisations to legally show TV series and movies in public from more than 1,000 rights’ holders assuming no admission fee is charged and any promotion falls within MPLC’s guidelines.  

The MPLC Umbrella Licence provides a range of benefits including:

  1. A low annual MPLC Umbrella Licence cost.
  2. Unlimited performances.
  3. No reporting requirements for titles, dates or times of performances.
  4. Access to any legal audiovisual content intended for personal, private use. 


How to get your MPLC licence

To apply for an MPLC licence:

  1. Contact us for a quote. We’ll provide you with the MPLC licence cost for your organisation.
  2. Complete an application to ensure copyright compliance either online or by calling one of our licensing team.
  3. Receive your licence certificate.
  4. Start showing movies, TV and other audiovisual content.

Your organisation will be added to our database so we know you’re covered. This means you won’t receive any enforcement action. And, as long as you continue to renew your MPLC licence and stick to the licence conditions, you’ll remove the risk of any copyright litigation from our rights holders. 

Renewing your licence is also easy. We’ll send you an invoice each year which can quickly be paid online. 

Are there any MPLC licence exemptions?

Yes, the law provides for a few narrow exemptions. But they are not typically relevant for most organisations. Nonetheless, if you think an exemption could apply to your business, you should contact MPLC or a copyright solicitor to discuss your position.

We often speak to organisations who think they might qualify for an MPLC licence exemption for one of the following reasons. Only to find they still need a licence due to copyright law:

  1. Not charging a fee or cover charge
    Even if you don’t charge people to watch audiovisual content you still need an MPLC licence. Our MPLC Umbrella Licence only covers situations where admission is free.
  1. Playing TV with the sound off
    Copyright laws protect the visual elements of the copyrighted work, even with the sound off.
  1. Being a not-for-profit organisation
    The UK Copyright Act applies to for-profit and nonprofit organisations.
  1. Not being open to the general public
    Public performance licences are still needed in any place where a number of people outside a normal circle of family and friends is gathered. This includes clubs, hotels, bars, factories, gyms  and schools.
  2. Renting out your facility to other organisations
    Even if another organisation infringes copyright laws on your property, you can still be held indirectly liable.

Buying an MPLC licence keeps your organisation legal and maintains your reputation. All of which could save you significant sums of money in the long-run. 

Find out more about buying your MPLC licence by contacting our licencing team on +44 (0)1323 649 647.


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