High court victory for PRS

PRS have praised the recent decision in PRS Ltd v Alexander Burns and William Burn [2012] EWHC 221 (Ch), as “a victory for common sense, for all those businesses that have obtained and paid for licenses to cover their music use and for the music creators that PRS for Music represents”. In the action, it was claimed that the defendants, father and son owners of ‘Remix Bar’, Woking, had committed repeated copyright infringements by the playing of musical works in public without a license. PRS stated that “taking a customer to court is always a last resort”, and is one of only three cases to reach trial in over thirty years.

Mr Kevin Prosser QC (Sitting as a Deputy Judge of the High Court) encouraged the parties should “adopt a broad brush approach on this issue”, deciding they should agree that “the balance of unpaid royalties amounts to 2,000 GBP, and that damages are payable amounting to 3,000 GBP, making 5,000 GBP in total, plus interest”.

Additional damages of 9,000 GBP were also awarded under section 97 of the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988 which states that “The court may in action for infringement of copyright having regard to all the circumstances, and in particular (a) to the flagrancy of the infringement, and (b) any benefit accruing to the defendant by reason of the infringement, award such additional damages as the justice of the case may require”.

This he claimed was due to the “flagrant infringement” of Mr Burns, who he believed knew “that the 2006 license had been terminated but” did nothing to stop PRS’ copyright being infringed. Moreover, as an experienced solicitor, his lax and uncooperative attitude was totally unacceptable”. No additional damages were awarded against William Burn, who he considered was “understandably relying on his father”.

The decision highlights the importance in acquiring and maintaining a PRS license for businesses wishing to play copyrighted works in public.

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