Legal advice on motion picture licences for golf clubs

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick April 14, 2022 10:01

Alistair Smith from the National Golf Clubs’ Advisory Association (NGCAA) comments on recent reports that golf clubs may now need a licence to broadcast television news.

A number of golf clubs have recently had contact from the Motion Picture Licensing Company (MPLC) to say that they may require a licence for the television(s) in their clubhouse. The MPLC had last contacted golf clubs in 2018 but it has renewed its efforts recently as a result of a change to the position as it stood back in 2018.

We advised and produced a factsheet in 2018 but in light of the latest developments, we have conducted research and liaised with the MPLC in order to clarify the position in this update.

Who is the MPLC?

MPLC is a legitimate organisation which represents the interests of a large number of TV and film producers and distributors around the world. It has no statutory status but does provide the motion picture licences for the producers and distributors that it represents in order to prevent unauthorised use of their copyright. In a similar way to PRS/PPL not being able to guarantee coverage with their licence to absolutely everyone, MPLC assures us that it represents over 3,500 TV and film producers and distributors on an exclusive basis, including household names like Paramount, Miramax and Walt Disney Studios.

Change in the law

A change to section 72 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA) was such that it brought the showing of broadcast television programmes and films in public places within the scope of potential motion picture licensing. It is worth noting that a ‘public place’ includes staff only areas.

Where a motion picture licence is required for the broadcast of television programmes and films in public places, it is in addition to existing licences required through PRS, PPL, TV licensing and any Sky commercial subscriptions.
Since we produced our last guidance note on this subject in 2018, the MPLC has grown from representing approximately 900 rights holders to just over 3,500. Consequently, the coverage now includes those with content on news channels and means that a portion of news broadcasts will require an MPLC ‘Umbrella Licence’. For example, MPLC rights holder, Getty Images, is known for cutting edge and archival footage covering a variety of news topics.

The change: an MPLC licence will be required if news channels are shown in golf clubs. It was previously excluded like music and sports channels so golf clubs should review their practices and consider if they require a licence.

Does my golf club need a motion picture licence?

It depends…

Firstly, it makes no difference whether the ‘showing’ is through terrestrial, satellite (including commercial Sky customers), free to air (including Freeview), internet or cable. The key question for the applicability of a motion picture licence is what is being shown.

If you make a specific charge for the screening of a TV show or film, then yes you will need a motion picture licence. You may well need to look into other licences for such showings, such as from the local authority. If there is no specific charge made by the club for the showing, for example that the TV is in the bar of a members’ golf club where fees are paid for golf membership, then there may still be a requirement for a licence, but see below for exceptions.

The MPLC licence applies to films and television programmes so if you show films or TV programmes in the communal areas of your club (bar, restaurants, lounge areas and so on) a licence is required.

There is no requirement for a motion picture licence if the television in your communal areas only shows sport (for example Sky or BT Sport) or dedicated music channels.

A golf club could also avoid the need for a motion picture licence if it switched on and off certain channels for specific broadcasts. For example, if a World Cup football match was on BBC1 at 7pm and finished at 9pm, the club would not need a motion picture licence if it switched on and off at exactly those times – that is, it was restricted to showing sport and no other TV shows or films.

In order to prevent liability for the licence fee and from prosecution, the club must have a mechanism in place to ensure that it is only showing sport or dedicated music channels. If a Sky decoder can be locked so that it only shows sports and music only channels, that would be a good, robust mechanism.

No films or TV programmes should be inadvertently shown to the public. If watching a live broadcast of football as in the example above, when the broadcast ends there should be no way that a movie or TV programme is shown after the football. A procedure must be in place to ensure that the TV is switched off after the live sport content has ended. The idea of leaving the TV controls out on the tables for members to switch around would have to end; keeping the controls under the strict control of the manager with a clear understanding of the licensing requirements may assist in discharging the obligation to have a robust mechanism in place.


In summary, those clubs who have received contact from MPLC would not need to obtain the motion picture licence provided that they do not charge separately and specifically for the broadcast AND provided that they can demonstrate that they show nothing other than sports and music channels, as outlined above.

The fee itself for an MPLC Umbrella Licence is not normally expensive and we have heard many golf club managers opting to simply pay the licence fee in order to allow members some flexibility in what they watch and to avoid any potential court proceedings.

For any further advice in relation to this matter, please contact Alistair Smith at the NGCAA on or 01886 812943


Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick April 14, 2022 10:01
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