House music

The High Court has this week refused permission for restaurant owner Abimbola Balgun (t/a Mama Africa) to appeal against its decision against him that he had authorised copyright infringement by hiring a DJ to play music at private parties at his restaurant[1].

Balgun argued he had no part in the choice of which tracks the DJ played and therefore had not infringed the copyright in that music.

Ruling in favour of Phonographic Performance Ltd, the judge determined it was the act of authorising the playing of music without the necessary consents (which he held the restaurant owner had done by booking the DJ) which constituted the offence of authorising copyright infringement, not the choice of music to be played.

The case serves as a reminder to the owners of premises which allow music to be played to ensure that the necessary licences are in place.

What the law says

In the UK, the owner of copyright in a particular work has the exclusive right to:

  • Copy the work;
  • Issue copies to the public;
  • Rent or allow the public to borrow the work;
  • Perform, show or play the work in public;
  • Communicate the work to the public; or
  • Make an adaptation of the work (or to do any of the above in relation to an adaptation).

The copyright in a work will be infringed by anyone who, without the licence of the copyright owner, does or authorises another to do any of the acts set out above.

Single licences

As a result of the joint venture between PPL and PRS for Music, it is now possible to buy a single licence known as ‘TheMusicLicence’

PRS for Music represents songwriters, composers and music publishers. PPL does the same for performers and record companies. Both organisations ensure the right parties receive payment when their music is played or performed in public. PPL and PRS for Music have recently combined to provide a streamlined process of licencing. This removes the need for two individual licences to be purchased to enable a business to legally play and/or perform music whether through the TV, radio, other devices or live.

For further commentary on the High Court’s decision, or for advice and or assistance on copyright or licencing, please contact Megan Jefferies or another member of Thrings’ Intellectual Property team.

[1] Phonographic Performance Ltd v Abimbola Balgun t/a Mama Africa [2018] EWHC 1327 (Ch)


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