Should a music licence ban be forever?

A query has been raised over the long-standing High Court Chancery Division practice of imposing permanent injunctions banning music licence infringers from playing music until they take out current licences and clear their back licence fees. Phonographic Performance (PPL) has beaten a regular trail to the High Court seeking judgment in default against those caught playing music without current licences.

Once the allegations have been proved, judgment has included a permanent ban on the future playing of music covered by the copyrights of whichever of the organisations has taken action. Now the practice of imposing permanent injunctions is to be looked at in depth by Mr Justice Chadwick.

A hearing is expected, probably this month, in which PPL will be able to put its point of view. The judge has already said that the court's practice of making permanent injunctions meant that the defendant remained subject to an injunction for an indefinite period.

And he took the preliminary view that this was possibly not right or necessary. He said that normally the purpose of the injunction would be to force the defendant to obtain a licence. But it could lead to the defendant ceasing business and ceasing to play records altogether, or to the defendant playing records without a licence.

"It seems to me unsatisfactory that the court should make these orders if they are not going to be policed within a reasonably short time and also unsatisfactory that these orders should be relied upon perhaps two to three years after a licence has been obtained but has expired," he said.

He said it was time to consider whether the right course would be to make the orders for a limited period, perhaps for six months.