Confusion as settings ‘hounded’ to pay for music licences

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Childcare providers are challenging music licensing bodies which claim they must pay to play recorded music in their settings.


Childcare providers are challenging music licensing bodies which claim they must pay to play recorded music in their settings.

Nurseries and childminders are reporting being contacted by PPL and PRS for Music, telling them if they play recorded music in their setting they must pay for a joint nursery licence at a cost of £80 plus VAT per year. They are being told that failure to pay could result in civil action taken against them.

This follows the coming together of Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) and PRS for Music last year to create joint licensing arrangements – money from which is paid to performers, record companies, writers, composers and music publishers. Prior to 2016, all organisations, including childcare settings, were required to take out separate licences with PPL and PRS for Music.

However, there has been confusion about whether childcare providers require such licences as schools and nursery schools are exempt under the Copyright Act because they use music for educational purposes.

According to PPL and PRS for Music, while the Act contains exemptions for educational establishments, these do not ‘generally’ apply to nurseries (see box, below).

A number of providers are refusing to pay for the new Joint Nursery Licence as they argue they should be on an equal footing with schools. Many providers say they are now being contacted by debt collection agency Oriel Collections, acting on behalf of PPL and PRS for Music.

A spokesperson for PPL and PRS for Music confirmed to Nursery World that where an invoice is not paid and a business continues to ‘infringe copyright by using music without obtaining the correct licence, PPL may refer the matter to its collections partner’.

The music licensing bodies said legal action is ‘very much a last resort for both PPL and PRS for Music’, which are ‘on hand to answer any questions a customer may have about their licence fee, and to ensure they understand the implications of unpaid invoices’.

Comments on the Champagne Nurseries, Lemonade Funding (CNLF) Facebook group reveal widespread confusion among nursery owners and childminders about whether they need a licence to play music. Many childminders believe that a deal was brokered with the licensing bodies some years ago to make them exempt.

PACEY told Nursery Worldit believed childminders were exempt from paying for the licence and had not been notified of any change in position, despite childminding services now being included in the new Joint Nursery Licence information.

One provider posted on CNLF’s Facebook page, ‘Can I confirm that we do not need to buy a PPL licence? The PPL people sent the debt collectors after me earlier this year, and it has taken months to convince them that I don’t play music (my music tutor does and I had to provide her licence).’

Another said, ‘One of the settings in my local cluster has spent over £300 on licences. She was hounded on a daily basis until she paid. She was told that if you download from YouTube, you need one… just another nail.’

Comments on the Facebook page also show providers are receiving conflicting advice from their local authorities about whether they require a licence.

A spokesperson for PPL and PRS for Music said, ‘The primary legal basis for [our] licensing activities is the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1998.

‘PPL have been contacting many nurseries, including existing customers, to advise them on the new joint licence for nurseries. Many nurseries already hold separate licences from PPL and PRS for Music. The joint licence will result in a lower combined licence fee and a reduced administrative burden.’


Richard Stewart, head of dubbing and tariff development at PPL, said, ‘By introducing a new joint PPL and PRS for Music licence for nurseries, we have significantly simplified music licensing for these businesses. We are enabling nurseries to be properly licensed, via a single, simple transaction, for a wide variety of uses of music to entertain and allow children to express themselves while learning and having fun. Not only is the joint licence more accessible and efficient, it is also cheaper than the combined cost of the previous separate PPL and PRS for Music licences.’

According to PPL, ‘The cost of separate licences varied depending on a number of factors, including the type and quantity of music used. Both PPL and PRS had separate polices which could affect the cost of the licence; however, the new joint tariff is charged at a single flat rate, which covers all of the music usage at a nursery.’

Paul Clements, commercial director at PRS for Music, said, ‘Music plays a vital part in a child’s early learning, providing a valuable channel for children to express themselves. PRS for Music and PPL want to ensure the licence to play music is accessible and simply attained so that all premises have the opportunity to incorporate music into their daily offering.’


Liz Bayram, chief executive of PACEY, said, ‘As stated on the PPL website, all early years settings including childminders were expected to pay a £40-a-year tariff to play music, and we have raised concerns with PPL on this matter as this now deviates from the requirements set out in the PRS tariff – which still makes clear that childminders are not charged, as they are not running a business from a separate independent building.

‘We were not notified of any change in position by PPL; it seems these two organisations are now using different principles to deliver their joint licence arrangement – and this leaves us and our members unclear as to what is expected of them. We will make it clear that all early years settings including childminders have limited income to pay for additional regulation and red tape such as this, and we will be seeking clarification on this confusing situation so that we can update our members.


Keith Appleyard, treasurer of Fiveways Playcentre in Brighton

Mr Appleyard received a letter last month from debt collection agency Oriel asking him to pay the £96 he owes for a licence.

The nursery owner is refusing to pay as he believes that nurseries are covered by the Copyright Act, and they also no longer play music at the setting.

Mr Appleyard said, ‘I paid for a music licence 16 months ago for the fourth or fifth time. However, four months ago I started ignoring the invoices from PPL, as under section 34 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1998, educational establishments, which includes nurseries as they are regulated by Ofsted, are exempt.’

The nursery treasurer told Nursery World that in a phone conversation with PPL, he was told that because people pay to send their children to the nursery, he is required to hold a licence, and only schools are exempt. However, when Mr Appleyard revealed that the Government pays the nursery to provide places, PPL replied that the setting is exempt, but only for funded, not fee-paying, children.

‘How do you tell a child to stop listening, or tear them away from the music when it gets to 3pm and their 15/30-hour slot has expired?’ he said.

‘I’ve told PPL we aren’t playing music any more (we have a man that comes in and does live music), and they could call off their debt collector. PPL said they would update my details and I wouldn’t hear from Oriel again. However, should I ever be found to be playing music, then I would be fined.’

Mr Appleyard added, ‘I’ve never been asked for a playlist by PPL or PRS, so I suspect that the authors of tunes for Teddy Bears Picnic, Wheels on the Bus and the like are not getting their just desserts anyway.’

Nursery owner

A nursery owner in Hampshire told Nursery World that she has received emails and calls from Oriel saying she must pay for a music licence. However, she has ignored the correspondence because the building in which she rents the space has a licence.

The nursery plays music for the children to paint to, and for games such as musical chairs.


Literature from the music licensing bodies states that, ‘The proprietor or responsible operator of a nursery, playgroup, pre-school or crèche (not integral to a school) in a dedicated room or building will need to obtain the licence.’ Nurseries, pre-schools, playgroups or crèches ‘integral to a school’ are also licensable, as are other types of premises, such as a multi-purpose centre or community building that you hire or visit.

It says that the joint licence covers a broad range of music uses within nurseries’ premises, including extra-curricular dance and movement classes (for example, parent and baby yoga), fetes and fairs, childminding services, film and cartoon screenings, extra-curricular external musicians, breakfast/holiday clubs, parent evenings/open days, general background music and on-hold telephone music.

According to PPL and PRS for Music, there are exemptions for educational establishments under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1998; however, these will not generally apply to nurseries.

The licensing bodies told Nursery World, ‘Section 34 of the Act sets out an exemption to copyright that is relevant to certain uses of music at “educational establishments”. This refers only to maintained nursery schools.

‘Section 174 of the Act sets out that an educational establishment is a school. In England and Wales, the definition of school is set out in section 4 of the Education Act 1996, which states that they are institutions providing certain types of education, including primary education. Also, that an institution that provides only early years provision and is not a maintained nursery school, is not a school.

‘Both exemptions can also apply where the audience includes people other than teachers and pupils, who are directly connected with the activities of the premises. For example, a musician hired to deliver a music class. Being a parent of a pupil does not satisfy this condition.’

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