The U.S. music sub-publisher of Korean music publishers has filed copyright infringement lawsuits against several karaoke bars in Los Angeles and Korea town. I’m not sure how popular the 80’s glam-metal-hair-band Ratt is in Korean karaoke bars, but it is also suing for infringement of its “Round and Round” song. The complaints allege that Defendants charge customers money for access to the karaoke machines, the primary feature of the bars for which customers pay Defendants, and illegally publicly perform the copyrighted musical compositions embodied in the karaoke recordings.
Ratt’s single composition pales in comparison to Elohim’s assertion that 3,341 musical compositions have been infringed by the karaoke bars, but as explained below Ratt is afforded more remedies under the Copyright Act. Both plaintiffs allege that the bars have not been granted public performance licenses for the compositions under 17 U.S.C. § 106(4) of the Copyright Act.
Each of the Elohim Compositions constitutes copyrightable material and is protected under the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (the “Berne Convention”). The Berne Convention affords the Elohim Compositions, which were published in Korea and are owned by Korean citizens, automatic copyright protection in the United States; in this regard, there is no requirement that the Elohim Compositions be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office prior to the initiation of this lawsuit.
Unlike the foreign copyright holders, Ratt asserts that it properly and timely recorded its musical composition with the US Copyright Office. Thus, Ratt is entitled to elect between statutory damages under 17 U.S.C. §504(c) and its damages and Defendants profits, in addition to attorney’s fees and costs under Section 505. Rudnicki v. WPNA 1490 AM, 580 F.Supp.2d 690, 694 (N.D.Ill.2008) ( “Registration is only a prerequisite when the foreign copyright holder seeks statutory damages and attorney's fees.”). Elohim, on the other hand is only entitled to actual damages and Defendants’ profits, which are sometimes more challenging to prove and might be less than the minimum statutory award.
PRACTICE NOTE: Foreign copyright holders with substantial business in the United States should obtain U.S. copyright registrations to avail themselves of all remedies under the Copyright Act.
Some of the cases are:
Elohim EPF USA, Inc. v. Doballo, Inc., et al., CV14-05425 JAK (C.D. Cal. 2014)
Elohim EPF USA, Inc. v. Rosen Group, Inc., et al., CV14-05439 (C.D. Cal. 2014)
Elohim EPF USA, Inc. v. JSP Venture, Inc., et al., CV14-05455 (C.D. Cal. 2014)