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Restaurants sued over music copyrights

The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, or ASCAP, filed 21 separate copyright infringement lawsuits against restaurants, bars and nightclubs in 13 states, officials for the music society said this week.

ASCAP alleged that each of the businesses it filed suit against either publicly performed the copyrighted music of ASCAP songwriters, composers and publishers without obtaining a license to do so, or did not pay the required licensing fees.

Filing the lawsuits was a last-resort action, said Vincent Candilora, ASCAP’s vice president of licensing.

“Basically, we’ve been contacting all 21 of these establishments for a long time, in some instances, for years,” he said. “Some of them had licenses with us and simply chose not to pay for them. The point is, we’re not trying to put them out of business; we’re just want to make sure they have the proper permission and pay to use someone else’s property.”

According to ASCAP, the Empire Dine & Dance in Portland, Maine; Vanishing Point Bar & Grill in Mt. Airy, N.C.; Bacchus in New Paltz, N.Y.; Bamboo in East Hampton, N.Y.; and Isla Verde Cafe in Philadelphia were among the establishments being sued.

ASCAP currently represents more than 380,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers and more than 8.5 million copyrighted musical works.

The group said that nearly 90 percent of the licensing fees it collects are paid directly as royalties to the songwriters, composers and music publishers. The remaining 10 percent covers ASCAP’s operating costs.

Candilora said the group “not only has a right to collect license fees from the users of music, but it also has a responsibility to its songwriter and composer members — the smallest of small business people — to ensure they are adequately compensated for their hard work.”

“The 21 cases filed [this week] aim to heighten awareness among music users and the public that it is a federal offense to perform copyrighted music without permission,” he said.

Contact Elissa Elan at [email protected].

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