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Phonograms

EU court says hotels should pay royalties for in-room TVs

Hoteliers in Ireland have called the ruling “outrageous”.

HOTELS MAY BE subject to royalty payments for television and radio broadcasts consumed by guests in their rooms following a ruling by a European court today.

The European Court of Justice today said that hoteliers should be required to pay for their guests’ use of copyright material.

The judgement has been met with criticism by the Irish Hotels Federation. Chief executive Tim Fenn said the “outrageous” ruling will result in an additional layer of costs being imposed on hotels and guesthouses at a time when many businesses are struggling to survive.

“It’s ridiculous to classify the use of a television or radio in a hotel bedroom as being a public performance,” said Fenn. “Hotel bedrooms are not public areas and should not be treated as such. Hotels have always considered guest bedrooms to be the private space of their guests and this should be the case in relation to this charge.”

The court, however, ruled in favour of Phonographic Performance Ireland Limited (PPL), the society that represents the rights producers hold over their sound recordings.

The judgement said that the broadcasting of phonograms (or musical performances) by a hotel operators is of a profit-making nature.

“The action of the hotel by which it gives access to the broadcast work to its customers constitutes an additional service which has an influence on the hotel’s standing, and, therefore on the price of rooms,” it said in explanation for its ruling that “equitable remuneration for the broadcast” must be paid by the hotel in addition to that paid by the broadcaster.

Through current Irish law, hotel owners are exempt from paying royalties but the Commercial Court will now deliberate on this ruling.

Fenn said that if hotels and guesthouses become liable to pay additional royalties to copyright collecting agencies, his federation will demand appropriate safeguards to ensure future tariffs are fair and equitable.

If the exemption is lifted, hoteliers will be liable for performance-related royalties, similar to those paid by radio and television stations for playing music and music videos.

In a separate ruling today, the same court found that dentists should not have to pay for playing radio and music. That case had been brought to the Luxembourg judges by a Turin-based collecting agency.

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