Jul 2, 2015

Night Club Owner Given Prison Sentence for Copyright Infringement

The defendant in the case of Phonographic Performance Limited Music Licensing Co. v Fletcher, received a prison sentence after repeatedly infringing copyright by playing music without a valid licence in his nightclub.

Phonographic Performance Limited ("PPL") is the UK's music licensing company and performance rights organisation.   Any business that plays recorded music in public requires a licence from PPL. The licence gives the owner of the premises permission to play the recording without infringing copyright. Any music which is outside of PPL's remit or outside of the copyright term does not require a licence to be played. However, almost all commercially released music is within PPL's remit.

Mr Fletcher repeatedly played music in his nightclub without having a licence despite several warnings from PPL.  In the first instance PPL secured an injunction to prevent him from doing this.  Mr Fletcher eventually agreed to pay the past licence fees owed in installments but only ever made random and infrequent payments whilst all the time continuing to play recordings in the nightclub in breach of the injunction.

PPL applied to commit Fletcher for contempt of court and the judge Mr Justice Arnold granted the application.

Under Section 97A of the Copyright Design and Patents Act 1998 the High Court has the power to grant an injunction against a service provider when the provider had knowledge of infringement of copyright. Under Section 97 the damage assessment is assessed with reference to the flagrancy of the infringement and any benefit accruing to the defendant because of the infringement.

Fletcher's defence was that he had only played infringing recordings once.   He also said that he had cancer, was suffering from depression and anxiety and a bereavement.

The Judge held that Mr Fletcher had played music in public on numerous occasions, failed to keep up payments to correct this and his personal circumstances did not excuse him from his obligations. He was therefore sentenced to 28 days imprisonment, suspended for 12 months on the condition that he stopped infringing. PPL were also awarded the outstanding sum for licence fees as well as £6,000 plus interest and the cost of the application to commit Fletcher for contempt of court.

in: Case Law, Copyright, Digital/Tech, News

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