Limerick bar out of tune over music royalties

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by Andrew Carey

[email protected]

IMRO, the Irish Music Rights Organisation, has been granted a temporary injunction against the operators of a Limerick bar preventing them playing any kind of music until royalties and arrears owed to musicians are decided.

Seeking an injunction and relief against Bouke’s Bar on Catherine Street, IMRO legal representative Faye Revington BL, claimed the operators continued to breach the agreement despite their music licence being revoked last May.

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She said the owners had increased their capacity to include live music sessions and IMRO was seeking judgement in respect of the debt and an injunction prohibiting them playing any music, live or recorded.

However, leaseholder Lorcan Bourke, said that there was a dispute over the arrears claimed by IMRO. He told Judge Gerald Keyes that they had paid the annual licence fee in the three years prior to the dispute arising.

Under the agreement signed by Mr Bourke, IMRO claimed it was up to the licence holder to notify them of any changes to the playing of music on the premises.

Ms Revington claimed IMRO had not been notified that the bar operators were now hosting live bands and affidavits from inspectors indicated that breaches of the agreement regarding background music were still occurring.

Defence Counsel Donal O’Rourke said the agreement in respect of IMRO’s licensing was “complex in nature”. Mr Bourke had no issue in respect of the licence but he disputed the amound of arrears owed.

Mr O’Rourke had sought a list of the music that IMRO held the rights to but Ms Revington said this was not possible to establish due to the vast repertoire on their files. However, she added that “99 per cent of all musicians are registered with IMRO whose sole purpose was to generate royalties for their musicians.”

Legal arguments ensued over whether or not musicians, playing original music, were entitled to play at the venue. However, Ms Revington said that the writers and composers had transferred their rights to IMRO and “side arrangements” were not permitted under the IMRO licensing.

As the bar had since engaged in hosting live bands, the IMRO licence fee had increased from almost €400 to over €19,000.

They estimated that the venue would host in the region of 120 sessions annually or two per week.

After Mr Bourke gave an undertaking not to play any music in his bar until monies equivalent to the annual licence fee for playing background music were lodged in the court, Judge Keyes adjourned the case granting a temporary injunction to IMRO.

A stay on the injunction would take effect once Mr Bourke paid in the €400 to the court offices.

He also granted permission for one live music act to play at the bar in the interim.

“This is not going to send out any message to licence holders that breaches of the agreements with IMRO are allowed. This is a method of dealing with this one case but I have injunctions in place that will prevent any future loss to IMRO and its partners.

“IMRO are a big body with powerful legislation behind it but here is a man saying he is going to lodge money and pay his bills. He is just disputing the amount alleged to be owed and that seems perfectly acceptable to me”, the judge said.

The matter is due back before the court in March.