MPLC License - Do I need one?

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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MPLC License - Do I need one?

Post by sam91 »

We're a small sports centre which is part of a comprehensive school. We do not wish to broadcast films or television, either to our customers or to our staff. We own no televisions but have two desktop computers on the front desk which are for work purposes only.

On the basis of our ownership of these two computers we are being told by the MPLC we need a license. They've explained we need to buy one so that we're covered just in case a member of staff streams a film or television from one of our computers. I've explained that this would be against our Internet Usage Policy but they've told me we're still liable if one of our staff does this and could be prosecuted as a result.

I wanted to find out if this really is the case? I'm a little suspicious because it would imply every single business with a working internet connection would need to buy a license. The MPLC staff were also quite aggressive on the phone and disbelieving when I told them we don't own a television.
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Re: MPLC License - Do I need one?

Post by AndyJ »

Hi sam91,

The short answer is no you don't need a licence if you don't intend to show films to the public in your centre. And even if by accident a film did get shown in this way, you wouldn't be 'prosecuted' since it would be a matter for civil litigation.

An MPLC licence is not a form of insurance and it shouldn't be offered in that way. It is up to the school to weigh up the chances that something like inadvertent misuse of a computer could occur, and only if that seems reasonably likely should they consider getting a licence. And of course a computer can be used to stream several other types of copyright work, such as music and music videos, plus live television programmes, and since, presumably, these are equally likely (or unlikely) to occur, you would then need separate licences for all of these things (from the PRS, PPL and BBC TV Licensing* respectively).

If an individual were to stream or download a motion picture in an unauthorised manner via one of your computers, MPLC would need to prove that the school was vicariously liable for that infringement before they could win in court. If sensible security precautions such as logins and passwords are in place to prevent unauthorised use of the computers, the school would not be liable for criminal acts which evaded these precautions, by members of the public who were visiting the Centre. And if, for instance, if a pupil or member of staff watched a feature film from their own Netflix account using a school computer that would not require an MPLC licence, although I imagine the school would not condone such usage. And of course there are certain exceptions to copyright law with regard to some educational purposes which mean that a licence may not always be required.

Here's a link to a helpful guidance note which covers changes to the law on making broadcasts available to the public, issued by the Intellectual Property Office,

And here's another useful guide about the types of copyright works which might need a licence if they are made available to the public.

*TV Licensing is included here for the sake of completeness, although it has nothing to do with copyright. If the school needs to use TV or radio programmes which aren't covered by an exception, the body to contact is the Educational Recording Agency.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007
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