Licensing bodies and collecting societies can agree licences with users on behalf of owners and collect any royalties the owners are owed.
If you would like to use copyright material, you would usually need to get permission from the rights holder to do so. Sometimes this can be obtained directly from the rights holder, but more often it is granted in the form of a licence from a licensing body. A licensing body is a broad term used to describe any organisation involved in rights management. A collecting society is a type of licensing body which grants rights on behalf of multiple rights holders in a single (‘blanket’) licence for a single payment. Generally speaking, rights holders will join a collecting society as members and instruct it to license their rights. The collecting society charges a fee for the licence, from which it deducts an administrative charge before distributing the remainder as royalties. In the UK, collecting societies are regulated with codes of practice that require them to adhere to certain minimum standards when dealing with their members and licensees. Their conduct is governed by the Copyright (Regulation of Relevant Licensing Bodies) Regulations 2014 in which they are referred to as the ‘relevant licensing bodies.’ Copyright works can come in a number of different forms, for example books, newspapers, pictures or music. There is usually one collecting society per sector which may be able to offer a collective licence. The main collecting societies in the UK and the sectors that they cover are as follows.
PRS for Music and Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL)
These are the 2 collecting societies that operate in the music sector. PRS manages the rights of songwriters, composers and publishers while PPL manages the rights of the record producers and the performers. As all these parties can have rights in a single piece of music, you will often need a licence from both PPL and PRS to get complete copyright coverage if you would like to play recorded music (eg records, CDs, jukebox or the radio) in a public space. A public space is usually one that is not domestic or private, for example a pub, club, shop, workplace or village hall. You would usually only need a licence from PRS if you would like to allow live music to be played at a public venue.
Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA)
The CLA licences on behalf of the Publishers Licensing Society, the Authors’ Licensing Society and (in certain cases) the Design and Artists Collecting Society (see below). You may need a licence from the CLA if, for example, you wish to photocopy, scan or re-use content from magazines, books, journals and electronic and online publications and make this material available to other people either in a leaflet or on a website.
Publishers Licensing Society (PLS)
The PLS use the CLA and the Newspaper Licensing Agency to manage the rights of publishers. They distribute the royalties they receive from the CLA to their members. They do not offer any collective licences themselves but may be able to assist if you are looking to use their members’ works in a way not covered by an existing collective licence.
Authors Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS)
The ALCS use the CLA to license the rights of its author members. They are responsible for distributing the royalties from the CLA to their members. They do not offer any collective licences themselves but may be able to assist if you are looking to use their members’ works in a way not covered by an existing collective licence.
NLA Media Access
You may need a licence from the NLA if you wish to make a copy of an article published in a newspaper or magazine either in print or online and make this material available to other people either in a leaflet or on a website.
Printed Music Licensing Limited (PMLL)
You may need a licence from PMLL if you are a school who wishes to copy any sheet music.
British Equity Collecting Society (BECS)
BECS negotiate with television companies and video distributors to ensure that performers receive money when any programme they have appeared in is broadcast or rented out on video / DVD.
Artistic works and images
Design and Artists’ Copyright Society (DACS)
You may need a licence from DACS if you wish to use an image of an artwork in a publication, advert, book or on a website. DACS uses the CLA to do the licensing of images in books and other publications.
Recording of television programmes by educational institutions
Educational Recording Agency (ERA)
You may need a licence from ERA if you are an educational establishment that wishes to record television programmes, for non-commercial educational purposes.
If you think you need a licence, you should contact the relevant collecting society which will be able to confirm exactly what your licensing requirements are.
Other examples of licensing bodies which are not strictly collecting societies, but which can offer collective licences are detailed below.
Motion Picture Licensing Corporation (MPLC)
You may need a licence from the MPLC if you wish to show one of their member’s films in a public forum for example in film clubs, libraries, hospitals and seminars.
Filmbank Distributors Limited
You may need a licence from Filmbank if you wish to show one of their member’s films in a public forum for example in film clubs, libraries, hospitals and seminars.
Use of works in churches or Christian worship
Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI)
You may need a licence from the CCLI if you wish to copy text from hymn books for use in worship. They also offer a film licence to cover the showing of films during worship or in church clubs. CCLI also act an agent for PRS and PPL for churches that use recorded music outside of worship for example in a coffee shop or club.
If you are unhappy about the price or terms and conditions contained within a licence offered by a collecting society or licensing body, you may be able to appeal to the Copyright Tribunal. The Tribunal is a court which specialises in deciding disputes over the reasonableness of the price of a licence and its terms and conditions.