Month: June 2014

Blame the Band

20 years ago, I played guitar for a living in Southern California. I worked in cover bands at many bars–many,many bars–sometimes 300 nights per year. Good times.

The bar owners often did not play nice with ASCAP or BMI [“PRO’s]. The owners were constantly on the lookout for the kid being paid a few shekels to log songs licensed by the PRO’s.  And, in-person visits from the PRO’s reps (all name Tony) were rarely congenial.

Move forward 20 years, and nothing has changed. A bar owner in Ohio defended BMI’s infringement lawsuit by blaming the band. After all, the band chose to play infringing music–let it pay statutory damages. And, let’s just overlook the fact that the bar profited from the infringement.


It didn’t work. The 6th Circuit took little time in ruling that the bar owner was vicariously liable for the infringement. Right result; I can drink to that all night.

I have defended a few of these lawsuits and the challenge is educating the bar owner about copyright ownership. They often pay considerably more to settle the lawsuit than what the PRO’s would have charged in licensing fees. Lesson learned.

Here’s the opinion.