Copyright Attorneys Sue Redondo Beach Restaurant For Public Performances Of Copyrighted Music Not Licensed Through ASCAP, BMI, Or SESAC

A Redondo Beach, CA restaurant was sued for copyright infringement by copyright attorneys for several recording companies for publicly playing copyrighted music at the restaurant without a license from ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC. The complaint lists five songs which are copyrighted by their individual authors with the U.S. Copyright Office, and the rights are owned by the record companies. The complaint alleges that on one night, presumably when their investigator was at Paulie’s Upper Deck Sports Grill, the five copyrighted musical compositions were publicly performed “for the entertainment and amusement of the patrons attending said premises, and defendants threaten to continue such infringing performances.”

The complaint alleges that plaintiff warned the defendant that a copyright license was needed in order to publicly perform the copyrighted music at the restaurant. Because the defendant allegedly refused to pay for the license, the defendant’s copyright infringement was intentional and willful. Plaintiffs request statutory damages under 17 U.S.C. § 504(c)(1), of not more than $ 30,000.00 and not less than $ 750.00 for each copyrighted song. Plaintiffs also request that the court order the defendants to pay the costs of the lawsuit and reasonable attorneys’ fees pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 505. The case is titled: Far Out Music v. Fratelli Brothers, Inc., CV08-01975 GPS (C.D. California).

PRACTICE NOTE: 17 U.S.C. 504(c)(2) allows the statutory damages to be raised to $150,000.00 per infringement if it is deemed to be knowingly conducted. Also, if a restaurant or public establishment unreasonably believed that it was exempt from licensing requirements under 17 U.S.C. § 110(5), the copyright plaintiff, in addition to other damages under section 504, will be entitled to two times the license fee which it should have paid for the preceding period of up to 3 years. Because of the varying affiliations between record companies and the licensing society, a license from each of the following licensing societies must be obtained to cover the music owned by the various recording companies:
ASCAP: 1-800-505-4052 BMI: 1-800-925-8451 SESAC: 1-800-826-9996