When it comes to accusations over music piracy and subsequent litigation, US-based Warner is usually on the aggressive side of the fence. However, a case that has just concluded in Spain shows that sometimes the tables can be turned.
Parque Warner (Warner Park) is a theme park located just outside the Spanish capital Madrid. It opened in 2002 under the management of Six Flags with Time Warner taking a 5% stake. In 2004, Six Flags left the operation and Time Warner took over management duties, renaming the operation Warner Bros. Park and later Parque Warner Madrid.
Like all similar operations Parque Warner relies heavily on music to set atmosphere for its millions of visitors, something which the company obviously has to pay for. However, according to local music rights groups the company wasn’t always paying its fair share.
In an effort to correct this situation the Association of Management of Intellectual Rights AGEDI and the Association of Artists and Performers AIE filed a joint lawsuit which called for Parque Warner to pay appropriate rates for the recordings it had played in public. The groups also demanded that while the legal action played out, Parque Warner should stop using copyrighted music.
In May 2010, Commercial Court No. 7 of Madrid ruled in favor of AGEDI / AIE but on appeal the case moved to the Provincial Court of Madrid for a second hearing. In 2013 the court again ruled in favor of the artists but determined to achieve a better outcome, Parque Warner appealed to the Supreme Court.
Upholding the earlier decision of the Provincial Court, the Supreme Court has now rejected the appeal and ordered Parque Warner to pay compensation totaling $354,000 (321,450 euros) to AGEDI and AIE.
The Supreme Court said that the Warner used music in an “intense and continuous” manner during a six year period between 2002 and 2008 without obtaining permission from rightsholders.
“The communication to the public of recordings took place in all areas of recreation in the leisure park, including forms of transit, attractions and catering venues and retail outlets”, the Court said.
Noting that the park must “pay fair compensation” to artists, the Court found that the rates charged to Warner were reasonable since they only applied to periods when the park was open each year, from March to November in this instance. Warner had previously argued that the rates had wrongly been applied for full year periods.
Since the case has now been heard at the highest level, Warner has no further avenues for appeal.