Tomorrow's Hospitality A-Z – Navigating the future

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For UK businesses to play live or recorded music in their business premises, licenses will normally need to be obtained from the relevant collecting societies, the Performing Right Society (PRS for Music) and/or Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL). Such licenses can help to protect UK businesses from breaching copyright when playing music “in public.” This article explores at a high level the underlying copyright in live and recorded music and the means by which relevant licenses can be obtained for playing music in UK business premises, particularly in pubs and hotels.

Auteurs: Christopher Eklund Ella Evagora


The Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988 governs the law on copyright in the UK. In the context of music, the following descriptions of works are protected under UK copyright law: the underlying composition (the written song, lyrics or sheet music) and the recording (the recorded version of the composition).

Infringing copyright

The unauthorized playing of music in public can infringe the rights of the copyright owner. If a pub or hotel plays music through the radio, TV or other sound system without the relevant consent from a copyright owner or relevant license from the collecting society, there could be a breach of copyright for an unauthorized “public performance.” Hospitality venues cannot simply play music from their music streaming accounts such as Spotify.

Damages or remedies such as injunctions, accounts of profits or even criminal sanctions may apply if copyright infringement is proven.

Key takeaways
  • Establishments that play live or recorded music on their premises should obtain relevant licenses.
  • Obtaining a license reduces the risk of copyright infringement when playing music in public.
  • Other licenses should be considered (e.g., under the Licensing Act 2003).
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