The Federal Magistrates Court has fined two venues and their common director damages of A$355,000 ($331,000) for playing recorded music without obtaining a license from the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA).

APRA took action after two venue operators -- Cougar Tavern which traded as Options Tavern in Helensvale in Queensland and Backdraft trading as Heat nightclub at the Crown complex in Melbourne -- repeatedly ignored the association's letters and telephone calls urging them to get a licence.

The two venues had different owners, but had a common director, Robert Botazzi. During the case, APRA complained it had previous run-ins with Botazzi for the same reason when he ran the nightclubs Gossip, Abbey Road/Studio 54 and the Gossip Dance Club.

Magistrate Raphael fined the venues and Botazzi $27,780 ($25,900) for copyright infringement, and then topped up the fine to $355,000 ($329,000) to be "both punitive and a deterrent" he said. He added the venue operators had shown "contumelious disregard for the rights of APRA".

APRA chief executive Brett Cottle welcomed the court's decision and said in a statement, "Infringement by operators of taverns or nightclubs is a matter of serious concern. It's disappointing that in this particular situation, APRA had to resort to litigation for a resolution. Our relationships with music users are generally co-operative. Most operators of nightclubs and taverns are aware of their obligations to APRA and apply for and are granted licences by APRA. The Court's decision re-affirms long-standing laws on infringement of copyright and the authorization of infringement".