Belfast Telegraph

Hotels condemn music fee ruling

Hoteliers have criticised a European court ruling that they have to pay a performance fee for recorded music in guest rooms.

The Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) said it was outrageous the European Court of Justice found owners were liable for charges when a dentist soothing his patients with the same music was not.

The Luxembourg judges, who ruled in two separate cases involving Irish and Italian royalty collecting societies, said hotel guests constituted "a fairly large number of persons" - enough to be considered a "public".

Tim Fenn, IHF chief executive, said the decision will result in extra costs being imposed on hotels and guesthouses at a time when many premises are struggling to survive. He said: "Hotels have always considered guest bedrooms to be the private space of their guests and this should be the case in relation to this type of charge."

The court found a hotel operator offering television and radio broadcasts in the rooms was doing so commercially, to improve facilities, attract guests and, potentially, raise room rates. Meanwhile, a dentist has an insignificant number of people in attendance at any one time, and the broadcast of music, to each of them individually, was not a profit-making venture.

The European Court of Justice said: "It cannot be presumed that the usual customers of a dentist are receptive as regards the broadcast in question."

Phonographic Performance (Ireland) Ltd - PPL - complained that the Irish authorities were breaching EU rules by exempting hoteliers from having to pay "equitable remuneration" for the use of "phonograms" in the nation's hotel bedrooms.

The judges said a key issue was whether the user of the broadcast material was making "a communication to the public". Hoteliers were doing so, to an indeterminate number of potential listeners and in a way which was "of a profit-making nature".

The judges ruled: "Although EU law provides for a limitation to the right to equitable remuneration in the case of 'private use', it does not allow member states to exempt a hotel operator which makes a 'communication to the public' from the obligation to pay such remuneration."

Mr Fenn said if the High Court in Ireland determined hotels and guesthouses are liable to pay additional royalties to copyright collecting agencies, such as Phonographic Performance (Ireland) Limited, it would demand appropriate safeguards be introduced by the Government to ensure future tariffs are fair and equitable.

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