Is Your Karaoke Host Subjecting You To Trademark Infringement Litigation?
Do you run a bar, restaurant or other venue that provides entertainment in the form of karaoke? Do you know if your karaoke host is running a legal show? Do you know how to tell the difference? Do you care?
Computers have aided to the ability to make our lives better. They help you in your business. They also help the karaoke Jockey (KJ for short) to run a show that doesn’t require him/her to lug thousands of discs around to every show. With the advent of the computer age, the KJ can now carry all those songs in a case the size of an 8 lb. computer. He can find any song by typing part of the title or artist name, keep track of the songs for each singer, keep the rotation of singers in order, and print books for singers to select their songs. But along with the convenience comes the opportunity to do things that may not be on the up and up. And that can expose you to lawsuits for copyright and trademark infringement.
The manufacturers of quality karaoke music have waged war on those that have decided they can download songs and run shows without paying for them. They are after those that are putting all that music on hard drives and selling them for a few hundred bucks. And they are after you if you know about it and even if you don’t and should.
Investigators are on the move and showing up at clubs like yours. They are documenting the use of hard drives and computer by KJ’s, even the legal ones. That’s because they want to find out if each of those shows has a set of manufactured discs that were bought and paid for backing up all that music.
If you know that they are doing this or you don’t (and are in a position that you should), you may still be subject to litigation. Even if you don’t actually have to go to trial, you will be subjected to the inconvenience of responding and you may feel the need to consult legal council to put it behind you. Your KJ will have to prove he has a disc for every song on the computer. And if you know that he’s doing it, you could also be guilty by hiring him. Copyright violations can carry penalties up to $150,000 per song and trademark infringement carries penalties up to $2,000,000 per incident. And paying your BMI or ASCAP fees may not protect you.
There are things you can do to make sure you protect yourself from the debatable tactics of the karaoke manufacturers spearheading this effort. Their motives, while admirable, are being questioned by the very people that have been paying their salaries for many years. Many legal KJ’s – the ones that have paid for all their music – are up in arms saying they are being targeted right along with the Karaoke Pirates. They are guilty and have to prove their innocence and are having to retain council to answer for unfounded charges.
While you can register with the manufacturers or the associations and require your KJ’s to register and subject themselves to audit, you may find yourself looking for a legal KJ that will not mind going through the headaches for what you’re willing to pay. But there is something you can do to protect yourself and your investment.
ASK! If your KJ uses a computer and/or does not carry discs with him, Ask where the music came from to run his show. Most Pirates will be more than happy to tell you how they downloaded it all for free. A legal KJ will be happy to show you his library to keep the gig. You may have to go to his house or place of business, but most will be happy to conform. If they are not willing, find another KJ. (The same would be true with a DJ).
Resign yourself to only hire those that are conforming to the law. You pay your BMI/ASCAP fees every year that protects you and them for the music that’s played in your establishment. They should be gracious enough to protect you from litigation by purchasing legal copies of their music.