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Copyright: Major licensing company clarifies its position after ECJ ruling

Phonographic Performance (Ireland) Limited (PPL) has clarified its position on copyright infringement, following a ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in March which seemed to authorise the playing of music in waiting rooms, even if the owner of the copyright had not given permission.

The case in question concerned an Italian dental clinic run by Turin-based dentist Marco Del Corso.

Mr Del Corso was sued by an Italian copyright agency, Societa Consortile Forografici (SCF) after playing music in his waiting room without paying a royalty.

The Case was referred to the ECJ by Turin's Court of Appeal. The ECJ ruled that Mr Del Corso was not liable to pay royalties because the music was not played to the general public.

The ruling defined the general public as "a large and indeterminate number of potential listeners". They ruled that those waiting for the dentists' chair were not there to be entertained, and were of such a small number as to be insignificant.

The Dublin Government cited this ECJ ruling to allow an exception to licensing laws for hotels in the city, prompting a legal challenge by PPL.

The ECJ subsequently struck down the exception for hotels, saying that hotel guests could be defined as 'the public' because they could be a large number of people, and further that the hotel can profit from broadcasting music in its rooms.

Having won their case, PPL has now clarified its legal position regarding music played in the UK.

They issued a statement saying that the law in the UK regarding copyright is different from that operating in Italy. In Italy copyright owners only have a right to be paid when music is played, called 'equitable remuneration'.

However, in the UK copyright owners have the 'exclusive right' to protect their work, meaning that they can refuse the right for something to be played, whether or not the venue has paid a fee.

"The ECJ decided that playing recorded music in a waiting room could not be counted as 'communication to the public' in the context of a remuneration right and therefore the copyright owners had no right to be paid for this use of their music," the statement reads.

"The ECJ specifically stated that they were not considering an 'exclusive right' in this case so it has no effect on UK law," it concluded.

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