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Play those bars again and end up behind… bars (Brands & IP Newsnotes - Issue 2)

28 March 2016

The High Court has handed down a custodial sentence of 28 days for breach of an injunction against copyright infringement, albeit suspended for a period of 18 months. Two points rang out.

First, if your business plays recorded music in public, you should obtain a licence from Phonographic Performance Limited (“PPL”) – a company which licenses the use by businesses of the vast majority of recorded music commercially available in the UK. In this case, the Defendant – Mr John - ran a bar in North London called ‘Socialite’ at which he played popular music. Mr John did not have a licence from PPL and, following ignored requests to obtain such a licence, PPL sued Mr John for copyright infringement and won. In the usual way for an action such as this, the court granted an injunction against Mr John restraining him from further infringements by way of playing such recorded music in public. It also ordered him to pay damages to PPL (compensating PPL for the licence fees that should have been paid by Mr John).

Secondly, if the court has made an order against you, you must comply! This might strike most as a ‘no brainer’, but not Mr John who not only failed to pay all the money that he had been ordered to pay but also continued to play music within the PPL repertoire without permission and in breach of the injunction against him. As such he was in contempt of court. PPL initiated committal proceedings against Mr John; and despite Mr John’s promise to pay, the court gave him a custodial sentence of 28 days, suspended for a period of 18 months on the condition that Mr John would not infringe PPL’s rights again.

This article was published in the Brands & IP newsnotes publication - issue 2.

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