Planes, trains and boats

For your guidance, here’s a quick guide to what PPL can (and can’t) license, with a brief explanation of how that works in practice.


In this age of widespread air travel, planes traverse the globe daily, meaning their operators could potentially need music licences for every country an aircraft touches down in.

That would clearly be a nightmare in terms of administration for the licensees - and for bodies like PPL. Fortunately, copyright legislation in the UK (and in many other countries around the world) recognises this.

In the UK, the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA) applies to any aircraft registered in the country. So, for the purposes of public performance licensing, PPL treats UK-registered aircraft as if they are permanently British-based, and licenses them accordingly.

There are generally two types of use for recorded music on aircraft; music played while embarking and disembarking, and in-flight music. PPL has a specific tariff for aircraft, with fees varying according to the number of seats and the type of music usage.

In addition, several companies are licensed to copy PPL repertoire in order to provide programming on aircraft, including passengers’ “at seat” entertainment services.

Such companies provide details of all the tracks they use, and PPL distributes copying income alongside the public performance income collected.

Ships and cruise liners

As with aircraft, UK-registered ships are treated by the CDPA as British territory, so, again UK copyright law applies to them.

For larger vessels such as cruise ships and ocean liners, PPL applies various standard tariffs depending on their use of recorded music. For example, the Background Music – Pubs, Bars, Restaurants and Cafes tariff can be applied to bars and restaurants on a ship, while the Exercise to Music tariff might apply to aerobics classes held to music.

However, it’s worth bearing in mind that most cruise ships and ocean liners are not registered in the UK. Cunard’s flagships the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary 2 are registered in Bermuda, for example, while the world’s biggest cruise ships, the Allure of the Seas and the Oasis of the Seas, are Bahamas-registered. As a result, PPL is unable to license such vessels for public performance.

Trains, buses and coaches

PPL has a specialist tariff to license public performance of its repertoire on concourses and other “common areas” of bus and train stations (including those for underground services). Any additional usage such as in shops and bars at stations is licensed under the appropriate tariffs for those businesses.

Of course, there are staff offices and rest facilities at many stations; once again, PPL licenses the use of recorded music in these spaces under the appropriate tariffs. PPL also has specialist tariffs that apply to the use of music on buses, coaches and trains.

So, to sum up, next time you hear one of your recordings being played while you’re on the move, you’ll know there’s a fair chance that some PPL royalties will also be traveling in the right direction.

If you’re interested to find out more about the tariffs mentioned above, further details can be found here