People enjoying music at a bar or event may not realise it but they are supporting musicians through copyright fees paid by operators – pictured is the Christchurch Art Gallery’s recent 15th birthday, with a party including art, live music, films, and pop-up bars.
The Rock Salt Bar & Restaurant at Kerikeri has been punished by a High Court judge for failing to pay a copyright fee to play music.
Justice Matthew Palmer awarded compensatory damages of $4605 against Rock Salt based on the annual licence fees it should have paid during 2017 and 2018 – plus additional damages of $18,000 and court costs.
He awarded the additional damages on the basis of “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”.
Tony Waine, the bass guitarist from the 1980s rock band, The Narcs, said he received royalties for his songs, and small food and beverage outlets were required to pay a copyright fee between $100 to $200.
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But bigger venues with live performances could pay up to $5000 a year depending on a case by case analysis, he said.
While The Narcs had their heyday in the eighties with awards and a gold disc for world wide coverage, they have continued to perform and write and release songs including one this year.
Waine said the small but regular copyright payments were welcome recognition.
After the band stopped full time touring he became a music tutor at the Music and Audio Institute of New Zealand where he has taught students about copyright and arranged for staff from the Australasian Performing Rights Association to give guest lectures.
APRA was the organisation that sued Rock Salt.
“In the past it has been complicated to explain to recreation operators why they have historically received two fees.
“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,” Waine said.
The copyright captured virtually all music played in public venues.
“It might be a Dave Dobbin song sung by Frank Sinatra but it’s captured under the copyright,” Waine said.
The OneMusic website describes the type of businesses that must pay copyright fees, including hair salons, dance venues, pubs, shops, schools, churches, functions, buses or other transport, and music in videos and on radio.
High Court Justice Palmer said APRA had numerous interactions with Rock Salt from November 2016, pointing out its permission was required before songs were played in public.
“The songs performed as background music, at the Rocksalt Bar and Restaurant in Kerikeri on March 16, 2018, were evocative – Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out of, So Beautiful, and Into the Dark,” he said.
But the bar and restaurant “appear to have actively avoided service of documents and did not take any steps to defend the claim”.
“APRA offered Rock Salt a Hospitality Licence in five letters from October 2017 to July 2018 and even offered to backdate them,” Palmer said.
“Copyright is an important means of recognising the rights of songwriters. 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,” Palmer concluded.
“Rock Salt would do better to pay the licence fee next time,” Palmer said.
Rock Salt had yet to respond to Stuff queries.
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