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Rocksalt with no Licence to Rock


Venues (such as restaurants, cafes and bars) that play music must have a licence to do so. Otherwise, they are infringing copyright in the music by playing the music without authorisation.

It is common for small venues to avoid paying for a licence and to risk being sued for copyright infringement, hoping APRA (or whoever holds the rights to the music they are playing) has bigger fish to fry.

This tactic has recently become riskier in New Zealand, thanks to the case of Australasian Performing Right Association v 3228 Business Limited [2018] NZHC 3088 (27 November 2018) (Civ-2018-488-77).

3228 Business Limited operates a venue known as Rocksalt Bar and Restaurant in Kerikeri, NZ. They played songs without APRA’s permission (as required as the rights holder). APRA offered Rocksalt a copyright licence on numerous occasions, and even offered to backdate the licence. However, Rocksalt refused to comply and APRA sued Rocksalt for copyright infringement.

Only three songs were the subject of the proceedings. But the judge had no hesitation in finding copyright infringement and ordering Rocksalt to pay $22,605.61 ($4,605.61 for unpaid licence fees and $18,000 for, amongst other things, flagrancy of the breach).

This serves as a good reminder that even seemingly “small” infringements can and will be pursued


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Loft Legal Intellectual Property Law Specialist

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