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Karaoke? Sayonara!


Karaoke night at your local watering hole may soon be a thing of the past.

From Associated Press:

March 21 2006

FAIRFIELD, Conn. — A popular karaoke night at the Bear and Grill restaurant drew more than crooning patrons a few years ago.

It also landed the owners in federal court over a copyright infringement lawsuit. An investigator from Broadcast Music Inc. was in the audience the night of Oct. 28, 2003 and took notes while amateurs took turns with their renditions of "Margaritaville," "Mustang Sally" and more.

His notes and the bar's lack of a license with BMI led to a federal judge's ruling Monday that the establishment was liable for violating copyright laws.

U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall in Bridgeport must now determine at an April 28 hearing how much bar owners Pasquale Santangeli and his son, Patsy, must pay BMI. If the company gets what it's asking for, they Santangelis are looking at a nearly $40,000 fine. BMI wants $3,000 for each of the 12 infringements.

Eleven violations occurred during karaoke night, while the 12th was for a live band performance in 2004.

"Most people don't have a clue this law exits," said Anthony Musto, the Santangelis' attorney. "The lesson to be learned is: if you own a bar, restaurant or any business where you play music, offer live performances or have a television or radio, you need to contact BMI and ASCAP. If you don't, you risk the chance of getting sued."

ASCAP is the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, which licenses non-live performances, like records playing in a jukebox.

The owners offered an affidavit from a patron who claimed he was in the restaurant on karaoke night and played the songs on the bar's licensed jukebox. But the judge, instead, sided with the investigator's report.

Musto said his clients did not deliberately set out to violate intellectual property rights.

Pasquale Santangeli said he has an ASCAP license for which he pays $700 a year. He admits he does not have a BMI license, which would cost about $2,000 a year.

"Unless I get one, there won't be any live music," Pasquale Santangeli said.

BMI attorney John C. Linderman said letters, some requiring a signature, were sent to the bar, before the suit was filed. But Musto said the owners considered the letters unsolicited offers, which they routinely discard as junk mail.

As they're pushed ever closer toward irrelevance by digital technology, ASCAP and BMI—and the recording industry generally—are acting more and more like mob bosses running a protection racket.

If people want to assemble peaceably in a bar to amuse one another with off-key renditions of "Feelings" or "Don't Stop Believin'," it should be nobody's business but their own.

When the BMI attorney comes knocking on my shower door, I'll know it's time to move to Patagonia.

Posted by Rodger on March 22, 2006 at 09:48 AM | Permalink


outlawing karaoke please

Posted by: chad | Apr 6, 2006 12:18:36 PM

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