Do we need licences for film clubs?

Your organisation may have been approached recently by a body called the Motion Picture Licencing Company (MPLC).  They represent part of the motion picture industry and their role is “to approach… organisations and make them aware of possible copyright infringement and attempt to offer a sensible economic licensing solution to enable that organisation to continue to operate legally within UK copyright law.”

The MPLC believe that DVD/film clubs and similar activities in sheltered schemes are public performances, and therefore infringing copyright.  So they offer landlords the opportunity to acquire annual block licences costing typically £2-300 per scheme.  They can be persistent in approaching organisations and asserting this view.  But they’re not an enforcement agency, although they can refer cases to the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT).

Their argument is based on a review of the care sector in 2007.  Housing associations weren’t part of this process.  The review defined licensable activities as “coordinated activities, in the communal areas, created as part of a regular film programme, by the care managers”.  Also that “generally the audience in the communal area comprise people who may not normally choose to watch a film together”.  Arguably, neither of these applies where sheltered residents organise showings themselves.

An AmicusHorizon sheltered resident contacted the MPLC to query whether he needed a licence for the informal film club he organised.  The MPLC said “we do not propose to direct our enquiries to residents”.   Their view is that landlords provide the facilities used for film showings – communal lounges and DVD players.  So they’re liable.

To complicate things, a separate organisation Filmbank also offers a similar licencing service.  And things get even more confusing when you start looking at whether or not you need licences for public performances of music – for example, playing a CD in the lounge.

The Homes and Communities Agency view is “it is up to individual Registered Providers to seek their own independent advice as to whether they are required to acquire the licences or not”

So – as the HCA say – it’s up to your organisation to decide if you need licences for your schemes.  You should not feel railroaded into acquiring licences from the MPLC or any other organisation if your activities do not require them.


Robin Deane


October 2013

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