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Saturday, 19 April 2014

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Cumbrian nightclub faces huge bill for having incorrect music licence

A nightclub in Workington could become a showcase for local talent after a High Court judge banned it from playing copyrighted music.

The Vault photo
The Vault

The Vault, in Ladies Walk, was given a hefty legal bill after a wrangle over its right to play commercial artists dragged on for months.

Mr Justice Barling ruled that the club must now get an up-to-date commercial music licence. He also slapped a £6,000 legal costs bill on the nightclub’s owners, Darren Dawson and Dawn Murray.

The pay-up or shut-up order was imposed after the court heard that the two were caught playing music on the premises when they did not hold a licence from music royalties collectors the Performing Rights Society (PRS). Mr Dawson, 32, accepted that the club needed a licence but claimed the legal costs were unnecessarily high.

The club was initially told it owed PRS £21,000, and he and Ms Dawson have simply been trying to negotiate a reasonable payment, he said.

The society’s lawyers told them that one of its inspectors called at the premises and heard tracks – including Un Momento, Dominoes and Youngster – being played even though the venue had no music licence in force.

Solicitors sent letters to the owners alerting them that playing recordings without a licence or permission constituted infringement of copyright and asked them to acquire a licence.

A PRS spokesman said: “Whenever you play a sound recording in public, there are two separate licence fees to be paid. PRS distributes its licence fees to composers and music publishers and Phonographic Performance Ltd collects a separate licence fee which they distribute to record companies, recording artists and musicians.”

Mr Dawson said: “I have been disputing this for six months. The problem is not with PRS – it’s their lawyers. They initially sent us a bill for £21,000, and then said it would be £6,000 with £10,000 costs.

“I want to sort it out but I’ve been trying to fight for a fair price. Pubs in town tell me they pay £600 a year.

“But we’re open one night a week, so how is that fair? But every time they send me a letter or an email it’s £75; and they charge £400 an hour.

“Until it’s sorted, we’re looking at playing un-copyrighted music, supporting local musicians who want to come in here and play their stuff.”

The pair must foot the legal costs bill of £6,288 by March 4. They also face an inquiry to assess the damages owed.

Failure to obey the orders and turn any premises they run into a copyrighted music-free zone until all licence fees are updated would be a contempt of court, with penalties of up to £10,000 and up to six months in prison.

The PRS is a non-profit making organisation which collects licence fees for public performances of music and then distributes the cash among composers and music publishers.

Musicians interested in helping The Vault can contact Darren Dawson via the club’s Facebook page.

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