Owner of Grantham bars fined for playing music illegally

Court news
Court news

The proprietor of Grantham’s Gravity Bar has felt the weight of the law at London’s High Court.

He has been hit with a music ban and a hefty legal bill for playing music at two town venues without a licence.

One of the country’s top judges, Mr Justice Birss, imposed the ban on Jonathan Askham after he was caught playing recorded copyrighted tracks at both the Gravity Bar, at 8 Market Place, and Ra Ra, at 28 Market Place, without a licence from music royalties collectors Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL).

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 in prison.

The judge also ordered him to pay PPL’s legal costs of £2,397 by May 30.

The pay-up or shut-up order was imposed after the judge heard that a PPL inspector heard music being played at both premises on November 12 last year, including the same track at each, ‘No Diggity’ by Blackstreet, when Askham did not hold a PPL licence.

Lawyers representing PPL told the judge that letters were sent to the premises informing Askham 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.

Operations director Christine Geissmar 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.”