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Facing the Music

02 July 2010

As the home and work environment blend more, there is a risk of playing copyright music in the workplace illegally or, as a result of the new Digital Economy Act, of employees downloading pirated music and films and putting internet access at risk

THE EMOTIONAL POWER OF MUSIC can have significant reward for you and your business. If you are a Facilities Manager or Director, you should be aware of the benefits playing music to your staff can bring – and the laws surrounding it.
In a recent study carried out by MusicWorks, ( an initiative set up by licensing bodies PPL and PRS for Music and carried out by Entertainment Media Research, studies found that 71percent of people wanted
music played in the workplace, of which:
● 74 percent of employees said they enjoyed going to work more if music was played
● 85 percent felt happier by listening to music at work
● A quarter of staff said they would be less likely to take time off sick if good music is being played at work.
“Staff morale is the heart of running a successful and motivated business” said Christine Geissmar, Head of Public Performance Operations at PPL. “There are many ways in which staff morale can be improved, and our research shows that music can, in fact, achieve this. This is good news for HR Managers and Directors wanting to find a different, cost effective way to boost staff morale in the workplace.”
Although music will bring financial and productivity benefits to your workplace, there are also legal requirements surrounding its use that facilities decision makers must be aware of. If you play recorded music in your workplace, you must obtain a PPL licence and a PRS for Music licence. Two different licences are required – one for the recording itself (PPL) on behalf of the record companies and performers, and one for the musical and lyrical composition (PRS For Music) for the composers and publishers. The money received is then, after costs, distributed back to the record companies, performers, writers and publishers of the music.
Online piracy
The Digital Economy Act was granted Royal Assent on 8 April 2010, although most of the provisions will not come into force for several months. The Act is designed to pave the way for high speed broadband and it included a wide range of measures from digital radio to increased powers for communications regulator Ofcom.
The most high profile aspect of the Digital Economy Act is the section on online piracy. This is aimed at dealing with the widespread illegal downloading, without individual consumers facing court action. With an estimated seven million people downloading illegally, it was felt that individual court actions were not appropriate and that a more proportionate method was needed to tackle a problem that is threatening jobs and undermining the UK’s creative industries.
The first of the measures to be implemented is the process of notifications to illegal downloaders. Ofcom will draw up an Initial Obligations Code which provides the basis for cooperation between rightholders and ISPs. The Code will include details of the Copyright Infringement Reports which will be sent from rightholders to ISPs. These reports will trigger a notification from the ISP to the account-holder. These notifications must detail the copyright infringement and point subscribers to legal services for music, film and other online content. Furthermore, it is envisaged there will be a gap between notifications to allow account-holders time to take action to stop the infringing activity or appeal the notification.
Ofcom has published a first draft of the Code for consultation and the approved Code is due to come into force in January 2011. Ofcom will then monitor the levels of online piracy and provide regular reports. The intention is that the notifications will significantly reduce online piracy but if levels do not reduce sufficiently, then technical measures will be introduced, following further consultation.
If a business’ internet account is being used to download music and other files illegally, then the first step in the process would be to receive a notification, under the terms of the Ofcom Initial Obligations Code. That notification would include details of the infringement and give the business the opportunity to deal with the matter or improve security on the network. There will also be an appeals process if the infringement is disputed so that businesses would be able to challenge a notification. It will, however, be several months before the Ofcom Code comes into effect which gives businesses time to take any measures necessary. Further updates will be available from the Ofcom website where the Code will be published once it comes into force. 
If I work for one company within a large multi-company building, do we each need our own licence or do we just need one overall licence?

It is the responsibility of each individual company. If a building has several companies operating within it, each company will need their own licence which will be tailored to their requirements. PPL have a specialised team who deal with licensing all new businesses.
Who is responsible for getting a licence within a company?
It would be the responsibility of the Facilities Manager/Director of each business. The person who makes the key business decisions in terms of the general functionality of the building (lights, recycling etc). Music is as an important factor as any of these things which is why PPL had such a strong presence at the recent, successful Facilities Show - to reach out to those decision makers.
Does the licence depend on the amount of people in my building?
No, the licence fee depends on the amount of square footage within your premises. PPL has a range of tariffs for offices and factories with the lowest fee from 16 pence per day. The new business team (0207 534 1095) will be happy to assist you in explaining what tariff you need or you can find the information on the website
We only play the radio in our office, why do we need a licence?
Radio stations including news and talk radio use copyright sound recordings (such as theme tunes and background music during programmes) so any radio broadcasts within your business premises will require a licence. If your premises is under 100 sq m and you only play the radio, you may be eligible for a concessionary fee of 50 percent. Again the new business team will be able to help you with this.
Many of our staff listen to iPod’s at their desk – how does that work?
If you, as an employer, provide music (or the means to access the music, such as docking stations or speakers) then it is a public use of music and a licence is required. If your staff bring in their own music to listen to via headphones (i.e. their own personal iPod/walkman), a licence from PPL is not required.
How do I get a licence?
Getting a licence from PPL is quick and easy, call the dedicated New Business team on 0207 534 1095 who will be able to assist you. More information can also be found on

PPL was formed in 1936 and currently represents 42,000 performers, from mainstream acts right through to backing singers, percussionist and classical musicians, (approximately 90 percent of working musicians earn less than £16,000 per year from their profession) PPL also represents 5,000 record companies – from the major labels through to individual sole traders. The company doesn’t retain a profit for itself and the cost-to-revenue ratio remains low.

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