An expensive night for the DJ
Author: Tal Williams, Partner
19 December 2011
A recent case before the Court involving The Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) and a small entertainment venue in Melbourne is a timely reminder to ensure that if you or your outlet intends to use copyrighted music, you must ensure that you have the owner’s permission to use that material.
APRA recently took a small entertainment venue to the Federal Magistrates Court seeking damages for breach of copyright. The “Element Lounge” in Melbourne played three songs, Every Breath You Take, Touch Me and Lambada from the 70s and 80s, without approval of the copyright owners. How much did that end up costing the Element Lounge?
The small entertainment venue plays “the latest and greatest sexy RNB/whole school anthems/house mash-ups” and they employee DJs to carry out that activity. An area of the club is devoted to the dance floor and when the DJs are not performing, music is played through large TV screens. On the night in question the three songs referred to above were played.
Under the law APRA owns copyright, to the extent that it retains the exclusive right to any music or songs that are performed in public, in this case the three songs that were played on the night. APRA regularly licences persons publically performing such songs (radio stations, DJs, etc) to use that copyright. No such license were sought by the Element Lounge.
The Court found that copyright was breached when the three songs were played and that damages for the breach should equal the cost that would have incurred had a licence been properly obtained, $12,267.83. However, the Court also went on to order additional damages as a punishment for the clubs “contemptuous disregard for the rights of the copyright owner”. In those circumstances the total damages ordered by the Court to be paid by the Defendants in the proceedings was $75,000 for the Element Lounge and $60,000 for the DJ plus the Respondents were ordered to pay the costs of the Court proceedings!
As evident by this case, it is important you obtain a copyright license when wanting to play any songs in public regardless if your venue is large or small.
To discuss this further or if you have any questions about copyright license, please do not hesitate to contact me on the details below.
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