Copyright licence to play music in public

Posted: 26th June 2017

MusicOwners of bars, restaurants and clubs are required to obtain copyright licences from Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) before they can play recorded music. The point was underlined when two venues were hit with High Court injunctions.

PPL had launched proceedings against the owners of a restaurant and a cocktail bar after discovering that music by their artists was being played in public without licences. Faced with legal action, the owners had paid licence fees for a time but had continued with their infringing activities after those payments ceased.

The cases raised an important issue for PPL in that licence fees that were due at the time the proceedings were issued had been paid in full. The question therefore arose as to whether injunctions could be issued in respect of subsequent and future breaches.

In granting the orders, the Court noted that such injunctions look to the future as well as the past. The owners’ acts of infringement were continuing, and the fact that they had breached copyrights in the past was sufficient evidence that they threatened or intended to do so in the future. In taking a pragmatic approach, the Court found that to require PPL to issue fresh proceedings against the owners would be to elevate form over substance.