Legal Advice on Film Licensing for Golf Clubs


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

A number of golf clubs have recently been contacted by the Motion Picture Licensing Company (MPLC) to say that they may need a license for their clubhouse television(s). The MPLC last contacted the golf clubs in 2018, but recently renewed its efforts following a change in position as it was in 2018.

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

Who is the MPLC?

MPLC is a legitimate organization that represents the interests of a large number of television and film producers and distributors around the world. It has no statutory status but provides film licenses to the producers and distributors it represents in order to prevent unauthorized use of their copyrights. Just as PRS/PPL cannot guarantee coverage with its license to absolutely everyone, MPLC assures us that it represents over 3,500 television and film producers and distributors on an exclusive basis, including known names like Paramount, Miramax and Walt Disney Studios.

Change in law

An amendment to section 72 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA) was such that it brought the showing of television programs and films in public places within the framework of a possible cinematographic licence. It should be noted that a “public place” includes areas reserved for staff.

Where a cinematic license is required for broadcasting TV shows and films in public places, it is in addition to the existing licenses required by PRS, PPL, TV license and any commercial Sky subscription.
Since we published our last policy brief on this topic in 2018, the MPLC has grown from around 900 rightsholders to just over 3,500. As a result, coverage now includes those whose content is broadcast on news channels and means that some news programming will require an MPLC ‘umbrella licence’. For example, MPLC rights holder Getty Images is known for its cutting-edge, archival imagery covering a variety of hot topics.

The change: An MPLC license will be required if news channels are broadcast in golf clubs. It was previously excluded like the music and sports channels. Golf clubs should therefore review their practices and determine whether they require a license.

Does my golf club need a film license?

It depends…

First, it doesn’t matter whether the ‘broadcast’ is via terrestrial, satellite (including commercial Sky customers), free-to-air (including Freeview), internet or cable. The key question for the applicability of a film license is what is shown.

If you charge a specific fee for showing a TV show or movie, then yes, you will need a movie license. You may need to inquire about other licenses for such screenings, for example from the local authority. If there is no specific fee charged by the club for broadcasting, for example if the television is in the bar of a member golf club where a fee is paid for golf membership, it may there will always be a licensing requirement, but see below for exceptions.

The MPLC license applies to films and television programs, so if you show films or television programs in the common areas of your club (bar, restaurants, lounges, etc.), a license is required.

No cinema license is required if the television in your common areas only broadcasts sports channels (eg Sky or BT Sport) or dedicated music channels.

A golf club could also avoid having to obtain a film license if it switched on and off certain channels for specific shows. For example, if a World Cup football match was on BBC1 at 7 p.m. and ended at 9 p.m., the club would not need a cinema license if it turned on and off exactly at those times – i.e. it was limited to showing sports and not other TV shows or movies.

In order to avoid liability for license fees and lawsuits, the club must have a mechanism in place to ensure that it only broadcasts dedicated sports or music channels. If a Sky decoder can be locked so that it only shows sports and music channels only, that would be a good sturdy mechanism.

No film or television program should be shown to the public inadvertently. If you’re watching a live football show like the example above, when the show ends, there should be no way a movie or TV show will air after the football. A procedure must be in place to ensure that the TV is turned off after the end of live sports content. The idea of ​​leaving TV controls on tables for members to switch seats should stop; keeping controls under strict manager control with a clear understanding of authorization requirements can help fulfill the requirement to have a strong mechanism in place.


In summary, clubs that have been contacted by MPLC would not need to obtain the film license provided they do not charge separately and specifically for the broadcast AND provided they can demonstrate that they only broadcast sports and music channels, as described above.

The fees themselves for an MPLC umbrella license are normally inexpensive and we have heard many golf club managers choose to simply pay the license fee in order to allow members some flexibility in what they watch and enjoy. avoid any potential legal proceedings.

For any further advice on this please contact Alistair Smith at the NGCAA on [email protected] or 01886 812943


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