Bar fined for illegal music use

Rock Salt Bar & Restaurant has been ordered by the High Court to pay almost $25,000 for failing to pay annual licence fees for the playing and performance of music.

Justice Matthew Palmer ordered the owners to pay $4605 based on the annual fees it should have paid, as well as $18,000 for “the flagrancy of the breach, the importance of the music as a reason for customers’ attendance over a significant period of time, and contempt towards the copyright regime indicated by the defendants’ behaviour.”

The bar was taken to court by APRA, the music licensing body for New Zealand.

“In the past it has been complicated to explain to recreation operators why they have historically received two fees,” said MAINZ lecturer Tim Waine. “One of them goes to the songwriter and the other goes to the owner of the recording. These days the two fee systems have been combined for simplicity and managed by OneMusic, which is a joint initiative between APRA and Recorded Music NZ.”

In his ruling, Justice Palmer found that there were no end of opportunities provided to Rock Salt to pay the fee. APRA offered Rock Salt a Hospitality Licence in five letters from October 2017 to July 2018 and even offered to backdate them.

“Copyright is an important means of recognising the rights of songwriters,” Palmer wrote in his summary. “ APRA is a not-for-profit royalty-collecting society for songwriters, which holds copyright for the performance or broadcast of virtually all currently-played musical works. There is evidence obtained from Rock Salt’s social media presence of a significant number of live performances or DJs, including most Fridays and about every second weekend in 2017 and 2018. APRA’s copyright was infringed. There is evidence that it intended to continue to do so.”

“Rock Salt would do better to pay the licence fee next time.”