|Hotel Fury on TV Verdict|
|Written by Frank Corr|
|Friday, 16 March 2012 08:27|
Irish hoteliers have responded angrily to a decision by the European Court of Justice which has ruled that Irish hotels should pay royalties for the use of copyrighted works on TV or radio by guests in their rooms.
The case was taken by Phonographic Performance (Ireland) Limited, or PPL, which argued it was contrary to Irish law to provide such services free of charge and sought damages. The case was taken against Ireland and arose from a bid to change Irish law that would make hotel owners exempt from paying royalties.
In its ruling , the ECJ found that "a hotel operator which broadcasts phonograms in its rooms should pay equitable remuneration to producers... and Member States may not exempt such an operator from the obligation."
Initially, PPL had taken their case to the Commercial Division of the High Court, but the Irish court referred several questions on to the ECJ. Its ruling will now be referred to the Irish Commercial Court where a determination on the case will be made.
In a statement, the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) rejected the decision as "outrageous".
"The ruling will result in an additional layer of costs being imposed on hotels and guesthouses at a time when many premises are struggling to survive," the IHF said.
If the ECJ judgement is implemented here the PPL is likely to collect an additional €3.8m. per annum from hotels, guest houses and b and b and bs. The charge to hotels will be around €1 per room per week.
"This will add another layer of costs on hotels and guesthouses at a time when many are struggling to survive," said Tim Fenn of the Irish Hotels Federation.
The PPI now plans to press the Government to change legislation which would allow royalties to be collected for music being played in 74,500 guest rooms nationwide.
Mr Fenn said: "It’s ridiculous to classify the use of a television or radio in a hotel bedroom as being a public performance, and so subject to royalty payments. 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 type of charge."
However, the court had good news for dentists. It ruled they did not need to pay royalties as the number of people who heard music in waiting rooms was not large and the dentist did not make a profit from it.
The Department of Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation said it was studying the court decision and would discuss it with the Attorney General before the matter returned to the High Court for a final decision.
The court found that the broadcasting of radio and TV programmes to hotel guests in their bedrooms met these criteria, as it was only possible to listen to them as a result of the deliberate intervention of the hotelier; there was an indeterminate number of potential listeners which could constitute a “public”; and the broadcasting of the programmes was a profit-making enterprise, in that the availability of TV and radio would have an influence on the hotel’s standing and the price of rooms.
It also stated that what determined whether or not a broadcast was private was the use of the recording by the operator, not whether the viewer or listener saw it in private.