Copyright body suing Qatar Airways for using music on entertainment system without licence
London judge dismisses airline's attempt to stop the case going ahead in England
Airways has lost the first stage of a legal battle over whether the
airline committed a vast breach of copyright for music available on its
A judge at the High Court in London dismissed the
state-owned airline’s attempt to have the case thrown out on the grounds
it should be heard in Doha rather than England.
The case has
been brought by the Performing Right Society (PRS), which represents and
collects royalties for tens of thousands of songwriters, composers and
PRS accuses Qatar Airways of using songs from its collection on the airline’s in-flight entertainment system without a license.
society is seeking damages from the airline for infringing performance
rights for the music both in the UK, Qatar and other countries that its
planes fly through.
Normally, airlines agree licenses from groups like PRS to provide the music to passengers.
his ruling issued on Friday, Judge Colin Birrs said that while the case
had connections to both Qatar and the UK, Qatar was not a more “natural
forum” than London to hear the proceedings.
“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,” he said.
PRS welcomed the decision and blasted Qatar
Airways for failing to remunerate its members for the use of their
“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,” Sami
Valkonen, PRS’s chief international and legal officer, said. “We hope to
resolve this matter as efficiently as possible on behalf of our
PRS said it would push ahead with the case unless Qatar Airways agreed to take a license for its repertoire.
society, which started proceedings in December, said the airline had
spent decades evading the licensing of copyright protected music for its
PRS said it had only started legal action
after attempts for Qatar Airways to agree a license through regular
business channels failed.
A Qatar Airways spokesman said in a
statement: “Qatar Airways does not intend to give detailed comment on an
ongoing legal case. However, it should be noted that, firstly, no
airline outside of the UK has a licence with PRS and therefore this is
not a point unique to Qatar Airways.
“Secondly, this decision
only relates to the matter of where the claim should be heard, and is
not a judgment on the merits of the PRS claim. It is one of a number of
procedural steps in the litigation that has been ongoing for several
On its website, the airline trumpets its Oryx One
entertainment system as “world class” and offers an app for passengers
to browse films, TV shows and music before boarding.
the second largest in the Middle East after Emirates, has been battered
in recent years after neighboring countries banned its planes from
their airspaces in 2017.
The move was part of a boycott of Qatar
by the Anti-Terror Quartet of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt
over Doha’s links to extremist groups.
Qatar Airways reported a $639 million loss for the year 2018 to 2019.
airline said in May it would be slashing its workforce by 20 percent
and cutting salaries in response to the coronavirus disease pandemic.