Friday, October 12, 2007

You can't sue quicker than a Kwik-Fit suer

The blogosphere has been buzzing with the news that the Performing Rights Society are suing Kwik-Fit because the mechanics have been playing their radios loudly at work thereby stepping into public performance territory. The judge, Lord Emslie, had this to say in refusing to dismiss the case out of hand:

"[8] In my opinion there is some force in the defenders' contentions regarding lack of specification in the pursuers' averments. By way of illustration, I think that the precise conduct alleged against the defenders themselves could have been more clearly and specifically averred; more could have been said about the degree of audibility of music played at different premises at different times; the same applies to the extent to which copyright works were involved; and explicit averments might have been included as to the defenders having done or authorised infringing acts, or as to their having permitted the use of personal radios in the workplace in the knowledge, or with reason to believe, that copyright infringement was likely to occur. However, looking broadly at the pursuers' averments as a whole, I am not persuaded that they are irrelevant in the sense that, if they were all fully proved, the case would nevertheless be bound to fail. Equally, it does not seem to me that the defenders are currently denied fair notice of the case against them to such a degree that dismissal, or partial exclusion from probation, could be regarded as a realistic option.

[9] As characterised in the course of the debate, the pursuers' allegations are of a widespread and consistent picture emerging over many years whereby routine copyright infringement in the workplace was, or inferentially must have been, known to and "authorised" or "permitted" by the defenders' local and central management. If that picture were to be satisfactorily established after proof, it is in my view at least possible that liability for copyright infringement would be brought home against the defenders under either or both of sections 16 and 26(3) of the Act. At this stage, certainly, such an outcome cannot be ruled out, especially in circumstances where the true scope and application of the law regarding the "playing" or "performance" of copyright works "in public" have not been explored in argument. On relevancy grounds, therefore, the pursuers are in my view entitled to the inquiry which they seek. Having reached that conclusion, however, I am not to be taken as accepting that, on proof of the averments in question, the pursuers would necessarily succeed in their claims against the defenders. In the course of the debate various hypothetical situations were figured in which charges of copyright infringement might arguably go beyond the contemplated scope of the legislation and/or offend against common sense. Whether, in the event, any such difficulties materialise in this case will depend on how the evidence turns out at the proof."

IPKat is looking forward to the trial, "noting he decision of the Danish Supreme Court in Marius Pedersen A/S v KODA [2007] ECDR 15 that an employer was not carrying on a public broadcast of copyright-protected work even if it supplied its employees with radios and players at the workplace."

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