Page last updated at 23:13 GMT, Thursday, 1 October 2009 00:13 UK

Q&A: When do I need a TV licence?

By Harriet Oliver
Business reporter, BBC News

Businesses are being warned they could be breaking the law if staff watch live TV on their computers when the firm does not have a TV licence.

TV on mobile phone
Watching live TV on your mobile at work is fine as it is not plugged in

Why has this become an issue?

You don't need a TV licence to watch catch-up television on services such as the BBC iPlayer. But increasingly programmes can be watched online as they are broadcast. Anyone watching live programmes on their computer will need a licence.

I already have a TV licence at home. Do I need another one to cover my computer?

It depends where you are. If your computer is at home, then your existing licence will cover you. It will also cover you if you watch live programmes on your laptop or other mobile device at another address, but only if the equipment is not plugged in.

Why does it matter if the computer is plugged in or not?

As soon as you plug a computer in at an address other than your home, then it becomes a "legally installed device" requiring a separate licence.

What about businesses?

Businesses must make sure all equipment they own, including laptops, is covered.

What about mobile phones?

If you watch live programmes on a mobile or PDA, then you will be covered by your licence at home as long as you are relying on the phone's battery. If you plug it in at an address other than your home address, then you need a licence.

Does this affect students?

Students will need their own licence if they are watching live programmes from equipment that is plugged into the mains. This includes televisions, computers or mobile phones. If they only watch programmes using battery-operated devices, then they will covered by their parents' licence at home.

I never watch BBC programmes online. Do I still need a licence?

Yes. You need a licence to watch any channel live.

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