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This blog is to highlight the unjust persecution of legitimate non-TV users at the hands of TV Licensing. These people do not require a licence and are entitled to live without the unnecessary stress and inconvenience caused by TV Licensing's correspondence and employees.

If you use equipment to receive live broadcast TV programmes, or to watch or download BBC on-demand programmes via the iPlayer, then the law requires you to have a TV licence and we encourage you to buy one.

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Saturday 8 September 2012

TV Licensing Talking Laptop: Talking Bollocks

Students are easy prey for TV Licensing, because they nearly all watch TV and very few of them understand the law.

TV Licensing are capitalising on that advantage this weekend, with the launch of their ‘Talking Laptop’ campaign on BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra.

According to a press release on their website: "TV Licensing research shows 99% of students intend to take a laptop to university this September and, with the wide range of smartphones and tablets now able to stream live TV over the internet, it's vital students know they will need their own TV licence."

Bone idle newspaper journalists across the land will be publishing that statement verbatim, blissfully unaware of the fact it is actually a lie.

It is not vital at all for students to have their own TV licence. It is true that anyone watching TV in real time (or BBC iPlayer on-demand programmes from 1st September 2016) needs to be covered by a TV licence, however, it does not need to be their own. Any student choosing to watch TV (or BBC iPlayer) programmes on an unplugged device powered by its own internal batteries (e.g. a laptop, smartphone, iPad etc) will be covered if their non-term time address, usually their parents' home, has a valid TV licence. Anyone watching in these circumstances will not need a separate TV licence.

It is also worth noting that a TV licence is not needed to watch non-live on-demand programmes on services other than the BBC iPlayer - e.g. no TV licence is needed to watch on-demand programmes on the ITV Hub, All 4, My5, Sky Go, Netflix, Amazon Prime or whatever.

It just goes to show that you really do need to take anything TV Licensing says with a big pinch of salt. Most other organisation would be too ashamed, or fearful of discovery, to lie to the newspapers but not TV Licensing.

Any student requiring further advice about TV licence law should read our free ebook, TV Licensing Laid Bare. Please download it and share it with your friends.

If you've found this article useful please share it with your friends and consider using our Amazon referral link for your shopping.

Edit: Students: You can now download and share our free leaflet about laptop usage and the TV licence - it's available on the Resources page.

Edit (1/9/2016): We have updated this post to reflect changes in legislation coming into force on 1st September 2016 - namely that a TV licence is now legally required to watch or download on-demand programmes on the BBC iPlayer.

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Anonymous said...

Huh, so if I plug in my laptop, I need a licence, but if I unplug it, I don't? What if I'm watching a TV stream from the US with 10 second delay?1

Admin said...

Correct. As long as your non-term time address has a valid licence, that will cover you to watch TV on an unplugged laptop (or any other portable equipment).

Technically speaking a TV licence is needed to watch live broadcast TV programmes on any channel, regardless of where in the world the channel originates from.

A 10 second delay is not enough of a delay, in our opinion, for the programme to be considered non-live.

You would therefore need a TV licence.

Unknown said...

I imagine for it to not be considered live it would need to be viewed on a date later than the stated airing date.

This would maybe present a loop hole if the footage was streamed from a time zone that is still in the prior day, if my previous idea is correct.

Admin said...

The definition of what is "live" and "non-live" is shady. There is nothing definitive, certainly not written in law, as far as we're aware.

It comes down to TV Licensing's interpretation, which is always dubious (TVL, part of the BBC, has a vested interest in selling as many licences as possible, because each one raises revenue for the BBC).

We would suggest that if a TV programme is delayed by hours then it is non-live. If it was only delayed by minutes then that could, in some circumstances, be considered live. That is just our interpretation though.

pbhj said...

WRT the [non-]live debate: iPlayer is considered to be non-live (ie pre-recorded) and appears within about 30 minutes sometimes of the broadcast. The BBC clearly show iPlayer style broadcasts that are live by a slogan "live TV". If it's made it on to iPlayer then it's usually not live. So I'd say 30 minutes after (or maybe it's the duration of the show) and you're in the clear.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how this affects livestreams. I've been on streaming websites where people stream things they are watching on their own computers themselves privately, but letting others watch along with them. At what point this becomes TV is seemingly impossible to make a statute against.

Admin said...

WRT livestreams: If it is not a TV programme service being streamed then you would not require a TV licence to receive it.

Anything you are streaming privately, which can't be received by normal members of the public, is not a TV programme service.

Anonymous said...

I haven't heard the ad but could the ASA be approached with a complaint? I'd imagine this fact about plugging in should be stated in the ad.

soubriquet said...

Let's just all be reminded that you can plug your laptop in as much as you want.
The offence is NOT of being in posession of apparatus capable of receiving tv brroadcasts.
Owning a TV without a licence is no offence.
I'ts only watching tv programmes AS THEY ARE BEING BROADCAST.

Anonymous said...

What if you are using a freeview USB "dongle"? I think that it may be the case that the laptop would need to be connected to a portable aerial rather than a permanent aerial, in addition to running off its internal batteries. What is acceptable under the regulations as an aerial in the case of portable receiving equipment, when away from your licensed home? Has anyone got a definitive answer?

Anonymous said...

Some years ago, some of the bands on 'Ready, Steady, Go' pre-recorded their songs which were then broadcast as 'live'. This was objected to and a discussion resulted on what constituted a 'live broadcast'. They settled on a three minute delay for editing purposes. If it is possible to get hold of these findings then there is already a BBC definition on what is a 'live' broadcast.

Anonymous said...

Do the same rules apply to second homes? I have a second home (not my permanent address). My permanent address has a TV license so can I watch TV legally on an unplugged laptop at my second home?

Admin said...

The TV licence of your primary home would cover you to watch unplugged anywhere else, including at your second home.
If you plugged-in at your second home, then legally speaking you would have to obtain a TV licence for that property too.
My advice - don't plug in!

Hedger said...

The new law is interesting, although poorly thought out.
Firstly, I do not have a TV licence as I do not watch live transmissions or iPlayer.
However, my girlfriend can come over and legally use her phone to watch programmes (as long as it isn't plugged into the mains!)because she has a TV licence. In fact, as the law stands she could use my laptop (as long as it isn't plugged into the mains!) because the law says 'provided the device you’re using isn’t plugged into the electricity mains at a separate address.'
It doesn't say that she has to OWN THE DEVICE - only that it's THE DEVICE SHE'S USING.
So what would happen if I, as a non licence holder, looked over her shoulder while she was using her phone or my laptop? I can't see how I would be breaking the law, and of course neither would she.
Like I said, this new law is quite interesting!
Any comments would be most welcome.
Cheers, Hedger