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ECJ rules on public space queries regards music licensing

By | Published on Monday 19 March 2012


The European Court Of Justice made two separate judgements on what constitutes “public” in the context of public performance royalties.

Of course when music is played in a public space, under most copyright systems the owners of the copyrights in that music are due a royalty (and in most cases that applies to both the publishing and sound recording rights). That’s simple enough, except when you try to define what constitutes a public space. What about hotel rooms? What about a dentist’s surgery?

Two examples not exactly picked at random, given those were the two spaces being considered by the ECJ last week, in two separate cases, one stemming from Italy, the other from Ireland.

In the case of a dentist’s surgery, the Italian case, the ECJ said that a room where teeth are examined is not necessarily a public space, so no licence is required if music is played (even though places of work are usually treated as public places).

But Irish hotel rooms, which had been exempted from public performance licences by the Irish government, are public places in the eyes of European law, the ECJ said, meaning the Dublin government is not allowed to exempt hoteliers from the public performance licensing system.

So there you go. It’s not clear whether this has any impact on the UK system, though what we do know for sure is that if Irish hotel owners don’t want to pay for licences from Ireland’s collecting societies, they’ll have to install a dentist in each of their rooms.