QLD Night Club Ordered to Pay $115k for Unpaid Licence Fees

A warning to venues that attempt to avoid paying music licence fees.

Escape Bar & Night Club was located at Surfers Paradise Surf Life Saving Club on the Gold Coast, Queensland. The club reportedly closed in July 2017 before proceedings were filed in the Federal Court in August against the club and its former owner Steven Ritchardson.

APRA AMCOS (Australasian Performing Rights Association & Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society Limited) license organisations to play the music of their members (constituting over 90,000 Australian composers, authors and publishers of music – and members of affiliated societies overseas). Licence fees from nightclubs are collected and then distributed back to songwriters. APRA performs a vital role in the industry and help creators of music get paid for their work.

APRA alleged that Escape Bar had been playing unlicensed music at the venue for three years and evidence was adduced that APRA made numerous attempts to get Ritchardson to create a licence agreement to lawfully use the music. It didn’t help the respondents that they failed to turn up to court twice leading to APRA seeking default judgment.

Judge Manousaridis held that Escape Bar must pay $36,749 for the licence fees owed (based on if they had entered into a Recorded Music for Dance Use licence from 1 September 2014 to 23 July 2017) plus interest ($3,849) along with $35,000 in additional damages against the both club and Ritchardson and $8,930 for APRA’s costs.

Judge Manousaridis commented that the judgment “serves to deter other nightclub owners from infringing copyright in musical works” [45] and “will communicate to the public the kinds of acts that constitute infringement of copyright of musical and literary works and deter persons from engaging in such acts; and it will communicate the Court’s disapproval of the respondent’s acts.” [47]

APRA head of revenue Richard Mallett has stated,

“Music licensing needs to be calculated into operational costs, just like insurance and staff superannuation so that a business can not only be compliant with regulation but develop a true profit projection of a proposed business venture.”

“Our members and the members belonging to rights management organisations around the world need to be fairly compensated when their works are used outside domestic settings.”

A victory for musicians and songwriters and a clear warning to commercial venues.

JudgmentAustralasian Performing Right Association Limited v Escape Bar & Night Club Pty Limited & Anor [2017] FCCA 2690

Legislation: Copyright Act 1968 (Cth), sections 3031, 32, 3536, 115 (Actions for infringement), 119 (Rights of exclusive licensee), 126, 196 (Assignments and licences in respect of copyright)

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