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The PRS for Music is a not-for-profit British music copyright collective made up of the Performing Right Society and the Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society that collects and distributes royalties on behalf of the musical creatives (the musicians, composers, songwriters etc.). And today, were interested in whether the organisation is legally enforceable.

In other words, were eager to find out whether the PRS for Music can take a company to court if they do not obtain a licence before utilising music?

Below, you can find out the answer to this and much more, including what happens if you dont pay PRS and what copyright law applies to playing music.

Is PRS Legally Enforceable?

  • Who are PRS?
  • What copyright law applies to playing music?
  • What happens if you don't pay PRS?
  • What legal powers does PRS have?
  • Is PPL PRS a legal requirement?
  • How can I avoid paying PRS?
  • Is PRS legally enforceable?
  • Our music licences

Who Are PRS?

The PRS for Music is concerned with protecting, licensing and supporting music.

It collects and distributes royalties for singers, songwriters, producers and composers when music is performed, broadcast, streamed, downloaded, reproduced, played in public or used in film or television productions. 

Find out more about the copyright collective and their licences by watching the video below.

What Copyright Law Applies to Playing Music?

In the UK, a piece of music is protected by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 as soon as its documented or recorded – no matter if its written in a notebook or recorded in a professional studio.

The act gives the owner the sole authority to perform the music in public, issue, lend or rent copies to the public, copy the music and communicate the music to the public.

In addition to the owner's lifespan, the copyright act will protect a piece of music for 70 years from the year in which the author dies. For example, Amy Winehouses music will enter the public domain during the early 2080s. 

What Happens if You Don’t Pay PRS?

If you fail to pay for a PRS licence you will usually be issued with a fine as a consequence.

The size of the fine will be dependent on a range of factors, from the length of time youve been avoiding obtaining a licence to how many people have listened to the music.

So, if youre planning on using music in some way, shape or form, we highly recommend that you obtain the rights to the copyright-protected music by paying for a PRS licence.

What Legal Powers Does PRS Have?

The PRS for Music says that they do not insist organisations, businesses or individuals obtain or maintain a PRS for Music licence if they do not wish to hold one, but we may make them aware of the legal consequences of continuing to use our repertoire unlicensed.” 

In the past, the company has taken some of the biggest companies in the world to court after they breach copyright law in one way or another.

For instance, in 2018 the PRS for Music won a high court appeal against BBC and Sky. More recently, the collective took Qatar Airways to court after they discovered the airline was infringing copyright laws.

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Is PPL PRS a Legal Requirement?

The PPL (Phonographic Performance Limited) is another organisation that those who utilise music will be familiar with as its just as important to obtain a licence from the PPL as it is to obtain one from the PRS. 

If you fail to obtain the right licences before benefitting from a piece of music, you will be in breach of copyright law which means the copyright holder (or the PRS/PPL on their behalf) can take legal action against you. 

If you play or perform music in the UK in a commercial space, you will most likely require the PPL and PRS joint licence, simply named TheMusicLicence. This licence allows licence holders to play music for employees or customers via radio, television or other digital devices. 

Find out more about TheMusicLicence by watching the video below.

How Can I Avoid Paying PRS?

One of the only ways of avoiding paying the PRS is to find artists that are not covered by the collective and come to an agreement with them outside of such organisations to play their original music.

Make sure you document this agreement by asking the musicians to agree to some form of contract.

Is PRS Legally Enforceable?

Yes, PRS is legally enforceable as if you dont obtain a PRS licence, you will be in breach of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

If an individual or business infringes copyright law, they can face legal action in civil or criminal courts which can lead to fines and imprisonment.

Find out more about how copyright works and copyright infringement by watching Berklee Onlines video guide. 

Our Music Licences

As members of the PRS, weve been able to find a way to take the stress out of obtaining a music licence.

How? By creating our own licences that our customers can obtain alongside their musical purchase. These licences allow licence holders to legally use tracks from our catalogue in their next project.

We have single-track licences available for those who rarely need music, create ad hoc content or are just starting out. These licences start from £6.99 and are used by creators, businesses, advertisers and TV programmers. 

We also have subscription licences for those planning to continue using tracks from our catalogue for the foreseeable future. There are currently four options to choose from: the corporate subscription, social advertising subscription, digital advertising subscription and custom subscription. Discover all of the options over on our music licensing page.

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