Europe

Dentists immune from music royalties claims - EU court

German dental surgery - file pic
Image caption EU law does not require dentists to pay fees for the music they play

Dentists who have music playing in their surgeries should not pay royalties because they are not broadcasting to the public, the EU's top court has ruled.

The Luxembourg judges considered a case brought against a Turin dentist by an Italian agency that collects royalties.

Dentists do not broadcast music for profit and the audience is limited, theEuropean Court of Justice ruled.

But hotel operators ought to pay royalties, aseparate ECJ ruling said.

The court struck down an exemption for hotel operators in the Republic of Ireland, granted by the Dublin government.

An Irish collecting agency representing record companies, Phonographic Performance (Ireland) Ltd (PPL), had complained to the ECJ about the exemption.

The ECJ said hotel guests could be defined as "the public" because "they constitute an indeterminate number of potential listeners".

In addition, a hotel operator profits from broadcasting music in hotel rooms, so he or she should pay royalties in addition to those paid by the radio or TV broadcaster, the ruling said.

The court's rulings are legally binding across the 27-nation EU.

Under international agreements those who broadcast copyright-protected works to the public are liable to pay royalties to the artists.

The case affecting dentists was raised by Turin's Court of Appeal.

An Italian collecting agency, Societa Consortile Fonografici (SCF), challenged a Turin dentist, Marco Del Corso.

The ECJ ruled that "the public" refers to "an indeterminate number of potential listeners and a fairly large number of persons".

Patients do not go to surgeries to listen to music but "with the sole objective of receiving treatment", and the number of people in a typical dental surgery "is not large, indeed it is insignificant", the judges explained.

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