22 July 2010
While still a young teenager, a singer who later became an international superstar was managed by a theatrical agent in the North of England. She made a number of test recordings in a local recording studio which were unpolished but showed exceptional promise. The recordings were made long before the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 introduced rights in performances when the only protection for performing artistes was the Performers Protections Acts 1958 to 1972. These were essentially criminal statutes which proscribed the fixation of performances without the performer’s consent. The recordings had been made with the singer’s consent but at that time she was a minor. The copyright in the sound recordings were subsequently acquired by the singer’s agent.
The singer and her agent went their separate ways and she eventually became very big indeed. At the height of her success the agent remembered the tapes and licensed them to a recording company to publish them as an homage to the singer. The singer objected to their publication and obtained an interim injunction in London restraining the release of the records arguing that she had been incapable of giving her consent at the time because of her minority.
There the case remained for many years until the agent came to me about another matter. That resulted in a very difficult application that my solicitors and I handled successfully at considerable personal risk to ourselves. The client was sufficiently impressed to ask us to intervene in the injunction proceedings.
I settled a letter to the singer requesting her consent to publication of the tapes. When that was refused we issued proceedings out of Preston seeking a declaration as to whether her consent had been validly obtained arguing that the contract by which the tapes were made was one that could bind a minor. After a lot of interim applications the case was consolidated with the earlier London proceedings against the recording company and listed for trial before the Vice-Chancellor in Manchester. Shortly before the trial a compromise was reached which allowed the recording to be released on terms. The recording did not prove to be quite the commercial success that my client hoped that it would but at least it was published.