Copyright Licensing and the Copyright Licensing Agency

If you want to copy and distribute extracts from other people’s published content, you do not always have to seek the copyright owner’s permission every time. In many cases, this would be impractical and inefficient.

What is the Copyright Licensing Agency?

The Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) is the body that deals specifically with the licensing of certain copyright material in the UK. The CLA is a major licensing body for the purposes of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1998:

“a society or other organisation which has as its main object, or one of its main objects, the negotiation or granting, either as owner or prospective owner of copyright or as agent for him, of copyright licences, and whose objects include the granting of licences covering works of more than one author.”

The CLA was established in 1983 and is owned by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society Limited (ALCS) and the Publishers’ Licensing Society Limited (PLS) and performs collective licensing on their behalf. The Design and Artists Copyright Society Limited (DACS) and the Picture Industry Collecting Society for Effective Licensing (PICSEL) are also member organisations of the CLA which can, therefore, now issue licenses on their behalf.

Copyright Licensing

What is a Copyright Licence?

Section 116(3) of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1998 defines a copyright licence as a licence to do or to authorise to do any of the acts restricted to the owner of the copyright.

Collective Licensing

The CLA is authorised by authors, artists and visual creators to issue collective licenses which allow copying from books, journals and magazines within certain limits and subject to various exclusions.

Blanket Licensing

The CLA issues blanket licences to organisations. These licences are issued on an annual basis and are subject to an annual licence fee which covers copyrighted material throughout the year. This means the licensee can copy as much as they wish throughout the year, subject to the terms and conditions of their licence.  These licences include an indemnity from the CLA for all copying done within the terms and conditions of the licence.

Licensing Schemes

The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1998 provides for licensing schemes by licensing authorities. Under Section 117 of the Act, licensing schemes enable the licensee to do the following:

  • Copy the work
  • Perform, play or show the work in public
  • Broadcast the work or include it in a cable programming service

Licensing schemes are suitable where there are a large number of publishers whose works are copied. The CLA has applied for extended collective licensing which would enable licensing bodies who represent a significant number of rightsholders belonging to the same class, to extend their licences to cover unrepresented rightsholders in the same class.

Does my Company need a copyright licence?

If your organisation copies, prints or distributes entire or parts of work which are copyrighted, without the direct permission from the copyright owner or a licensing authority, you will be breaking the law.

The CLA provides free online risk assessments which it is recommended you undertake if you believe you could be breaching copyright.

Copyright Tribunal

The Copyright Tribunal resolves commercial licensing disputes between copyright owners (or their collecting societies), and those who use copyrighted material in their business. If an individual has applied for a copyright licence in relation to a work which is available through a copyright licensing scheme, but the operator of that scheme has refused the application (or failed to do so in a reasonable time), they can apply to the Tribunal.

The Music Industry

In the music industry, when a musical work is released it is usually the case that the work is owned by the record company under contractual terms between the artist and the record company. If an individual wishes to use extracts or samples from the work of a specific artist, they will be liable to pay the record company for the use of the work.

The Film Industry

In the film industry, licences can be provided by the following bodies for various uses:

  • FilmbankMedia and Motion Picture Licensing Corporation may be able to license a non-theatrical showing of a film in public in such places as clubs, coaches, restaurants, village halls and schools
  • ComPact Collections may be able to help license cable retransmission rights on behalf of producers
  • Video Performance Limited licenses certain uses of music videos

In all other cases, it may be necessary to contact either the producers or the UK distributors to gain appropriate licensing for films.

Article written by...
Lucy Trevelyan LLB
Lucy Trevelyan LLB

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Lucy graduated in law from the University of Greenwich, and is also an NCTJ trained journalist. A legal writer and editor with over 20 years' experience writing about the law.