Karaoke King's copyright conundrum

The complaint
Mr Shaw ran a chain of successful karaoke bars and entertainment venues. Business was booming, the karaoke bars were packed and the sounds of people singing could be heard for miles around.

One evening a fire at a nearby warehouse caused a lot of damage to one of Mr Shaw’s music venues. The venue had to close while essential repairs were carried out. When the venue reopened fewer people came and it lost further revenue. The economic downturn brought more problems and eventually Mr Shaw reluctantly closed the venue.

To legally play recorded music in his venues, Mr Shaw was required to purchase a licence. Music licence charges are based on the number of people expected to visit the venue during the year. When the number of visitors to the venue started to decline, Mr Shaw asked the licensing company to reassess the charges.

Mr Shaw felt that the licence company’s failure to amend his fees contributed to the closure of the venue. Mr. Shaw was understandably upset by the loss of his business but he also felt aggrieved that the music licensees had not reassessed his licence fees after the fire to reflect his change in trading conditions.

He believed that the licence company had overcharged him and that there had been a shortfall in the company’s customer service. He also felt that his complaint had been dealt with unfairly.

He followed the music licensing company’s complaints procedure, however Mr Shaw was unhappy with the outcome and asked Ombudsman Services to resolve his complaint. He asked that the music licensing company look at his complaint again and consider reducing the outstanding balance he still owed.

The decision
The ombudsman found that after agreeing to purchase a licence 12 months earlier, Mr Shaw had not made any payments towards it in the four months leading up to the fire. Also that despite several payment demands from the licensing company, they had eventually resorted to court proceedings in an attempt to obtain payments from Mr Shaw.

The ombudsman decided that there had not been a shortfall in customer service provided to Mr Shaw and the licensing company had given him several opportunities to make payments.

It was also noted that the company had already offered to significantly reduce its fees, but Mr Shaw failed to keep to the agreement.

No further action was required.

Ombudsman Services case studies are anonymous. We do not name the participating company and complainant names are fictional.