Restaurant Sued For Copyright Infringement By Music Recording Companies For Playing Music Without A Copyright License

Los Angeles, CA – A copyright infringement lawsuit was filed by attorneys on behalf of several recording companies against a restaurant for having a band perform live music without obtaining a copyright license. 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 the restaurant, 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 the defendants’ copyright infringement was intentional and willful because, despite numerous letters and contacts about the required copyright licenses, “defendants have not sought or obtained a license agreement from plaintiffs or the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).” 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: Warner Bros. Inc., v. Gagner Corporation, SACV08-00215 JVS (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 intentional. 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. In some cases, business establishments that play hold music on their telephone system need to obtain copyright licenses. To obtain a music licensing agreement, and to cover all your bases, you should obtain a license from each of the following licensing societies:
ASCAP: 1-800-505-4052 BMI: 1-800-925-8451 SESAC: 1-800-826-9996