PRS copyright infringement case against Qatar Airways can go ahead in UK

PRS copyright infringement case against Qatar Airways can go ahead in UK

The High Court has ruled in favour of PRS For Music over whether a landmark copyright infringement case against Qatar Airways should be heard by the English courts.

PRS is seeking damages from Qatar Airways for using its members’ repertoire without a music licence in place. The airline, which offers music as an integral part of its in-flight service, has never remunerated PRS members, songwriters, composers, and music publishers. 

There is no equivalent representative collective management organisation in Qatar. After having sought to license Qatar Airways through customary business channels without response, PRS for Music started legal proceedings against Qatar Airways in December 2019. The jurisdictional judgment was handed down by Mr Justice Birss of the High Court of Justice in London on July 17.

In his 25-page decision, Mr Justice Birss noted the case is “really a global copyright dispute between a UK holder of those global rights and a Qatari user of the protected content who is using it all over the world”, but agreed with PRS’ position that jurisdiction of the English court had been properly established.

Subject to any appeal, the case will now proceed to a trial on liability unless Qatar Airways takes the necessary licence to cover the use of PRS repertoire, both retrospectively and moving forwards. 

Sami Valkonen, chief international and legal officer, PRS for Music, said: “Over the years, Gulf-based airlines have spent more than a billion pounds on various sports endorsements, yet refuse to remunerate our members for the use of their music on the airlines’ award-winning in-flight services. Today’s ruling is an important first step in our unyielding quest to correct this long-standing injustice and ensure fair compensation for our members from these airlines. We hope to resolve this matter as efficiently as possible on behalf of our members.”


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