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COPYRIGHT: No authorisation necessary for playing copyrighted music in a commercial establishment

At the end of last year, the Supreme Court of Justice handed down an important ruling to harmonise court jurisprudence on the protection of copyright (cf. Supreme Court of Justice Ruling of 15/2013), which should be discussed and not neglected.

 The issue in dispute was whether, in a commercial establishment open to the public, the connecting of speakers to a television set, with the objective of transmitting/amplifying the sound to the entire establishment, requires authorisation – and the resulting obligation to pay remuneration under Article 155 of the Copyright and Associated Rights Code (CDADC) – from the writer of the piece of music played for the public in this way, without the person responsible committing the crime of misuse provided for and punishable under Article 195 of the CDADC.

Let us consider the simple and completely everyday situation of a coffee shop/restaurant/office where music played on a television channel is reproduced through a television set connected up to an amplifier and speakers [without of course the owner having obtained the necessary permission from the Sociedade Portuguesa de Autores (Portuguese Society of Writers) for the authorisation, reproduction and eventual public distribution of such pieces].

This court jurisprudence harmonising decision ruled that connecting a television set to a device for amplifying music played on a television channel in a commercial establishment does not amount to a new use of the piece of music played and, accordingly, the use of such a piece does not require the authorisation of the writer. It does not therefore fall within the crime of misuse provided for and punishable under Articles 149, 195 and 197 of the CDADC.

The Supreme Court has created a precedent for court jurisprudence to the effect that mere reception of a radio or television broadcast in a commercial establishment is free and, notwithstanding the creation of an auditory environment, it is not dependent on the authorisation of the writers of such pieces. At the same time, the mere existence of speakers to amplify music played on the radio or television does not require the payment of the remuneration stipulated and provided for in Article 155 of the CDADC.

Consequently, a proprietor of a commercial establishment who intends to enjoy the benefit of the sound of any television channel [musical or otherwise] may – and it could be said should – benefit from the decision of the court.

Let us end this brief discussion with a quote from OLIVEIRA ASCENSÃO, used in the Ruling itself: “Man, like God, creates […]. Man, like animals, imitates […]”.


Carolina Caçador

cc@acfa.pt