The Dentist Magazine.

Practices must have relevant licences to play music

Published: 24/02/2017

Dentists playing music in their practice must have relevant licences, or risk legal proceedings.

UK-wide dental defence organisation, MDDUS, has received calls from members asking what the licence requirements are for playing music in waiting areas, with reports of companies who collect royalties cracking down on unlicensed playing of music.

This follows on from recent media reports suggesting dental surgeries may be paying ‘unwarranted’ fees to collection agencies PRS for Music and PPL to listen to music in waiting areas or consulting rooms.

MDDUS Head of Dental Division, Aubrey Craig, claims dentists can face legal action as a result of ‘infringing copyright’ if they don’t obtain the correct licence.

“Any business that plays recorded music in public is legally required to have relevant licences – and dental practices are no different,” says Aubrey. “There are two types of licences protecting different copyright owners. Practitioners need to have both of these licences in order to have permission to play recorded music in waiting areas.

“Regardless of whether the radio, a cd, an mp3 or other form of music is played, the licences need to be paid to protect the copyright of those who create, produce and publish the music or performances.”

Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) collects and distributes licence fees for the use of recorded music on behalf of record companies and performers, while Performing Right Society (PRS for Music) collects and distributes for the use of musical compositions and lyrics on behalf of songwriters, composers and publishers.

“Both organisations are separate independent companies and, if you play music in the practice, it is likely you will need both licences,” says Aubrey.

“The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1998 states you need permission from the copyrighter to play music in public. Buying a cd or downloading music only allows you to play that music for domestic purposes, such as listening at home or in the car. A practice is deemed a public area and therefore further permission is required.”

In 2012, there was a dispute in Italy between the owner of a private dental practice and a royalty collection agency. The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) ruled that dentist’s waiting rooms in Italy did not have to be licensed by the local music collecting society for playing music. However, it was determined that the case was not applicable in UK law.

A PRS for Music spokesperson clarified their position by confirmed that the ruling “concerns specific types of rights and remuneration which are not relevant in UK law or to PRS for Music”.

She added, “The law in the UK clearly provides that the performance and playing in public of works, sound recordings, films or broadcasts, is an act restricted by copyright and exercisable only with the consent of the copyright owner. Therefore, PRS for Music has the right to license businesses who use PRS members’ musical works in this way.”

The cost of these licences can depend on several factors, such as the size of practice and how recorded music is used in the business. Further details can be found at www.prsformusic.comand