PRS copyright case against Qatar Airways to go to court

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

Maya Radcliffe
  • By Maya Radcliffe
  • 17 Jul 2020
  • min read

PRS for Music is seeking damages from Qatar Airways for using its members’ repertoire without a music licence in place. 

The airline operates over 200,000 flights per year and offers music as an integral part of its in-flight service with up to 4,000 entertainment options, but has never remunerated PRS members for the use of their intellectual property.

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 judgement, which is the first milestone in an important case for PRS members, was handed down by Mr Justice Birss of the Hight Court of Justice in London on 17 July 2020.

Mr Justice Birss noted that 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’.

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.’

PRS for Music started these legal proceedings against Qatar Airways prior to the COVID-19 crisis with a focus on the long-standing past infringement of its members’ rights by the airline. It now seeks to ensure that Qatar Airways and other unlicensed airlines will be set up with necessary licences once air travel resumes after the pandemic.