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Chancery Division rules on the test for setting aside summary judgment and copyright infringement

Phonographic Performance Ltd v Ambibola Balgun t/a Mama Africa [2018] EWHC 1327

The Claimant claimed that the Defendant had played sound recordings, which infringed copyright in relation to two songs, contrary to s.16 of the Copyright & Patents Act 1988 (“the CPDA”). The Claimant obtained summary judgment on its claim in the absence of the Defendant who was acting as a litigant in person. Following enforcement, the Defendant applied to set aside summary judgment. The Master refused to set it aside using CPR 39.3 (5) as a guide.

The Defendant appealed contending that

  1. The Master’s approach to the principles applicable to setting aside an order for summary judgment obtained in the absence of a party was wrong, in that he had applied the test for setting aside judgment after a trial, which was not the right approach. The defence had real prospects of success because the defendant had authorised the playing of music in the restaurant, but he had not authorised the infringement of copyright.
  2. He had no control over whether independent DJ's played music infringing the copyright;
  3. There were other reasons why this matter ought to go to trial, including the fact that it was inappropriate to conduct a mini trial at the summary judgment. (§ para 9 of the Judgment).

Miss Penelope Reed QC sitting as a Judge of the Chancery Division of the High Court held:

  1. There was some force in the first argument, and it ought to be easier to set aside summary judgment orders in appropriate circumstances (§ para 13).
  2. The Court should take into account other rules of the CPR which provide that judgments can be set aside such as judgments in default under CPR r 13 (§ para 14).
  3. It was not inappropriate to take into account considerations set out in CPR r 39.3 (5). However, the Judge held that those considerations ought not to be too rigidly applied in circumstances where there has been no trial (§ para 14). There may be other relevant considerations, including whether there are other reasons why the matter ought to be tried (§ para 15).
  4. The Master had used CPR r 39.3 (5) as a guide. Whilst another Judge may have taken a different view on the issue of whether the Appellant acted promptly, the Master could not be criticised for finding that the application had been made late. The Master had not erred (§ para 18). It is the authorisation of the playing of music in public which is relevant within the meaning of s.16 of the CPD 1988, and not the authorisation of specific songs which infringe copyright (§ para 28).
  5. Amstrad could be distinguished on the basis that there was no control over use to which their equipment was put, whereas the Appellant had complete control over the playing of music in his premises (§ para 28).
  6. DJ’s did not exceed the nature of the authority conferred upon them. Therefore, the Master’s decision was not at odds with the law of agency (§ 29).
  7. There were no real prospect of success at trial and permission ought to be refused (§ para 30).

The Judgment can be accessed here

Arfan Khan argued the case on behalf of the Defendant, and did not appear below.

Arfan Khan / 18th Jun 2018


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