Hotels could hike prices over €2.6m music royalties bill

Irish hotels could be set to increase prices to cover an estimated €2.6m bill after the High Court said the facilities, guest houses and B&Bs must start paying royalties for any copy-righted music in guest bedrooms.

The music charges will be set by Phonographic Performance Ireland Ltd (PPI), which collects royalties for recording artists and then transfers the money on to the artists involved, after a court agreement with the State yesterday.

When PPI started the case in 2010, the firm said it was seeking about €1 per bedroom per week — the equivalent of 14c a night.

It estimates that about 100,000 hotel, guesthouse and B&B bedrooms exist nationwide, meaning it is losing out on over €2.6m every year due to the non-payment.

After taking the case to the High Court, the PPI yesterday settled its action over the State’s failure to amend laws which exempted hotels from paying copyright fees for the room music.

The case raised preliminary issues which were referred to the European Court of Justice for determination and its decision last March effectively ruled there could be no such exemption.

Among the issues the ECJ decided was that hotels were users of copyright music that can be played for the purposes of EU directive 2006/115/EC.

When the proceedings returned yesterday before Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan, she was told by Michael McDowell SC for the PPI that the sides, on consent, wanted the court to make a declaration in relation to payment of the royalties.

The declaration stated the money must be collected as a single charge and divided between record companies and performers.

It said the relevant provisions in the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000 allowing for the exemption were contrary to the State’s obligations under EU law.

The disputed provisions said there was no infringement of copyright where recorded music was heard “in part of the premises where sleeping accommodation is provided for the residents”.

Given that agreement, the rest of the action was struck out meaning the PPI was not pursuing its claim for damages, the judge was also told.

Dick Doyle, PPI chief executive, said he was pleased with the outcome and the law was now clear. The situation will now involve the PPI setting the charge, hopefully by agreement with the Irish Hotels Federation and other bodies, although any dispute would be determined by the Controller of Patents, he said.

A spokesperson for the Irish Hotels Federation said the group was “examining the judgement”.


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