Pubs win court battle over music charges

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The Independent Online

The catering trade and retailers won their court battle today over the charges they pay for playing recorded music.

High Court judge Mr Justice Arnold upheld a ruling from a Copyright Tribunal which the Institute of Licensing said will mean pubs, hotels and restaurants across Britain will now receive up to £20 million in refunds.



The judge dismissed an appeal by Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL), which introduced new tariffs in 2005/6. The institute claimed the tariffs meant fees were increased by more than four times.



The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) and the British Hospitality Association (BHA), together with bodies representing the retail sector, took the case to a Copyright Tribunal which found the new tariffs were not reasonable at a hearing last year.



A spokesman for the Institute of Licensing said the High Court ruling confirms savings of around £3 million a year for pubs, and also opens the door for refunds going back to 2005 that could amount to £10 million.



Brigid Simmonds, BBPA chief executive, said: "This judgment confirms the victory won last November, and is another milestone which brings a step closer the prospect of substantial and fully justified refunds for pubs. This could not come at a more important time for our sector as we struggle to come out of recession and will allow pubs to both claim a refund and pay less going forward.



"With so much at stake, our persistence in pursuing this case has paid off. With the appeal behind us, and pubs already benefiting from the sharply reduced charges, we are now turning our attention to helping pubs to claim the long overdue refunds to which they are entitled."



A spokesperson for PPL, a collective licensing body acting on behalf of around 4,400 record companies and 47,000 performers, said: "Naturally the company is extremely disappointed that the judge found there was no error of law (in the Copyright Tribunal decision) although he identified some problems with the decision of the tribunal.



"This leaves PPL with tariffs that it believes substantially undervalue the rights of its performer and record company members."



The BBPA and BHA had successfully pressed the Copyright Tribunal for full refunds for those paying the new tariffs since 2005. These payments were delayed pending the outcome of the appeal.



Licensees will be able to claim refunds based on their own calculations of what they are owed, or they will be able to ask PPL to make the calculation for them, said the Institute of Licensing.

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