Danvers club sued for music copyright infringement | New


DANVERS — A Danvers music venue has been sued for copyright infringement for allegedly failing to pay license fees to play music at the club.

The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers announced Tuesday that it has filed a lawsuit against Breakaway in Danvers along with six other establishments across the country.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in federal court in Boston, alleges Breakaway failed to pay licensing fees required by a licensing agreement he signed with ASCAP in 2016. The organization terminated Breakaway’s license. Breakaway in November 2018, but the club continued to play ASCAP. the members’ music, according to the lawsuit.

The organization sued Breakaway for copyright infringement in 2020, and the club did not pay a settlement, according to the lawsuit. The club also refused to obtain an ASCAP license agreement, according to the lawsuit.

Breakaway owner Joe Crowley denied that the club had not paid license fees since 2016. He said the club had not paid fees during the pandemic as it was closed for eight months and didn’t have live entertainment for a year and a half. He said he was negotiating with ASCAP on the amount of his licensing fees.

Crowley criticized the organization for taking legal action and making the dispute public.

“They think they can coerce people by embarrassing them,” he said. “They don’t care about corporate reputations or how difficult the situation is during COVID.”

ASCAP is an association of songwriters, composers and music publishers. The organization says it licenses music to hundreds of thousands of bars, restaurants, radio stations and other businesses to legally play songs protected by copyright laws, whether those songs be performed by a live band or played via recorded music.

The lawsuit accused Breakaway of presenting “unauthorized public performances” of copyrighted music. The lawsuit cited the performance of three specific songs on July 31 — “That’s Life,” “Ain’t That A Kick In The Head,” and “There, I’ve Said It Again.”

Crowley said the songs were played at a karaoke night at the club.

Crowley said he and ASCAP disagreed over how much the club should pay in license fees, which he said is based on the size of a venue. Crowley said ASCAP bases fees on the size of Breakaway’s entire building, rather than the entertainment portion of the club. The building, located on Route 1 in Danvers, also includes a restaurant and reception hall.

According to ASCAP, the average cost for bars and restaurants to obtain a license is less than $2 a day, which gives them the right to play an unlimited amount of music and covers over 11.5 million songs. . Nearly 90% of licensing fees go directly to songwriters, composers and music publishers in the form of royalties, according to the organization. ASCAP claims to represent more than 875,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers.

According to the lawsuit, ASCAP has attempted to contact Crowley or his representatives at least 14 times since July 23 to offer Breakaway a license. The lawsuit asks that Breakaway be ordered to pay damages not to exceed $30,000 or less than $750 for each of the three cited violations, plus the cost of the lawsuit. The plaintiffs are listed as Universal-Polygram International Publishing Inc., Maraville Music Corp. and Music Sales Corporation.

Other companies that ASCAP has filed lawsuits against include Calvin Theater in Northhampton, as well as locations in Texas, Connecticut, Wisconsin and Illinois. In a press release, ASCAP Executive Vice President of Licensing Stephanie Rulye said songwriters depend on royalties to make a living from their creative work.

“It’s only fair that companies that have been fortunate enough to receive government assistance during difficult times to cover their expenses, like The Breakaway, pay the songwriters whose music brings such value to their establishments,” Rulye said.

Breakaway received two loans totaling $307,379 under the Paycheck Protection Program, online records show.

Editor Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.


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