Sudbury nightclub given ban and fine after playing music without licence

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Pubs, clubs, commercial premises and anywhere in the Sudbury area where music is played publicly have received a sharp warning that if their music licences aren’t current it could cost them a packet and they could end up in the High Court.

In the wake of a music ban and a legal costs bill of just short of £1,700 imposed by the High Court on a local club proprietor who turned out to be a licence dodger, Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL) who issue licences have warned: “Businesses that choose to play recorded music without a licence may face legal action and possibly hefty financial and other consequences as a result.”

That was what happened in the case of Derek Smith, trading as Infinity Nightclub, who was caught playing recorded copyrighted tracks at club at 98 east Street, Sudbury, without a PPL licence.

The case went before one of the country’s top judges and he banned Smith – who was not in court and not represented - from playing music recorded music not just at the Infinity but at any premises he runs until he brings his licence up to date. Mr Justice Peter Smith also ordered him to pay £1,694 in legal costs run up by PPL in taking the matter to court.

Failure to obey the order and turn any premises he runs into a music-free zone until all licence fees are brought up to date would be regarded as contempt of court, the penalties for which can be fines of up to £10,000 and up to six months prison for individuals responsible.

The pay-up or shut-up order was imposed after the judge heard that a PPL inspector heard music being played on the premises, when Smith did not hold a PPL licence. The inspector heard tracks including “Benediction” by Hot Natured and “Look Right Through” by Storm Queen during his visit on 22 May.

Maxwell Keay, counsel for PPL, had told the judge that solicitors had sent letters to the premises informing Smith of the nature and extent of PPL’s repertoire and the fact that the playing in public of sound recordings without PPL’s licence or permission constitutes infringement of its copyright, and inviting him to acquire a licence.

The ban applies to all forms of mechanically recorded music such as records, tapes and CDs in PPL’s repertoire.

Christine Geissmar, Operations Director, PPL said: “There is an intrinsic value that recorded music adds to businesses, and this judgement acknowledges that the performers of the music and record companies should be fairly rewarded.

“Businesses that choose to play recorded music without a licence may face legal action and financial and other consequences as a result. Legal action is only ever sought as a last resort where a business continues to play music following repeated attempts from PPL to get the correct licensing in place.

“PPL issues licences to hundreds of thousands of businesses and organisations across the UK when they play recorded music to their staff or customers. Licensees include bars, nightclubs, shops, hotels, offices, factories, gyms, schools, universities and public sector organisations up and down the country.

“After the deduction of PPL’s running costs, all licence fee income is distributed to PPL’s record company and performer members. The majority are small businesses, all of whom are legally entitled to be fairly paid for the use of their recordings and performances. PPL does not retain a profit for its services.”