High Court's decision on nightclub manager's personal liability for copyright infringement

Posted by Nicola Rochon on
copyright infringement - music played at nightclub
In October this year the High Court found the designated premises supervisor of a nightclub in Essex personally liable for authorising and procuring acts infringing copyright as a result of the unlicensed playing of sound recordings at the nightclub she managed. This decision acts as an important reminder to nightclub managers of the personal liability they could face due to a failure to comply with the laws relating to copyright infringement.

The Court found that the nightclub had been playing Phonographic Performance Limited and PRS For Music copyright works (namely sound recordings) without the relevant licences.

It was decided that it was irrelevant that the Defendant (the designated premises supervisor at the time) may not have been present in the club at the relevant time and that she had not selected or approved any specific songs to be played. In addition, the Judge found the fact that she was not the proprietor and had no proprietary interest in the club to be immaterial.

The Court found that the Defendant acted as the manager of the club and that part of her responsibilities as manager included the booking of DJs and performers for the club. This involvement in booking and engaging performers was sufficient in proving that she was liable for authorising the playing of the infringing music at the club since the date that her employment commenced.

As a result, the Defendant was found personally liable for authorising and procuring acts infringing copyright and was therefore personally responsible for paying damages to Phonographic Performance Limited and PRS For Music. This result reinforces the personal liability for copyright infringement that anyone managing venues such as nightclubs or live music venues could face if music is played at the venue without the necessary licences.

If you have any questions in relation to copyright, or you think you may have grounds for a potential copyright infringement claim, please get in touch with the Intellectual Property Team at Blake Morgan who will be happy to assist. 

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Nicola Rochon is a Paralegal in our Commercial Litigation and Dispute Resolution team based in Southampton.

Nicola Rochon
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