A Lakewood restaurant establishment has recently been slammed with a federal lawsuit alleging that they play music in violation of copyright infringement, FAA News has learned.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court of New Jersey in Trenton.

The Plaintiffs are Broadcast Music, Inc., House of Cash, Inc., Velvet Apple Music, Combine
Music Corp., Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp., EMI Consortium Songs, Inc. d/b/a EMI Full
Nelson Music, and Painted Desert Music Corporation.

The Defendants are Maggie’s at Lakewood Country Club, LLC d/b/a Maggie’s Bar & Grill, Andrew Cameron, and Raef Lawson.

The lawsuit claims that the restaurant publicly performs musical compositions and/or causes musical compositions to be publicly performed, infringing on the Plaintiff's copyright.

According to the lawsuit:

The Plaintiffs allege 6 claims of willful copyright infringement, based upon Maggie’s unauthorized public performance of musical compositions from the BMI Repertoire.

For each song, Maggie’s publicly performed and/or caused to be publicly performed at the Establishment the musical composition without a license or permission to do so. Thus, Maggie’s has committed copyright infringement.

Since October 2019, BMI has reached out to Maggie’s 80 times, by phone, mail, and email, in an effort to educate them as to their obligations under the Copyright Act with respect to the necessity of purchasing a license for the public performance of
musical compositions in the BMI Repertoire.

Included in the letters were Cease and Desist
Notices, providing them with formal notice that they must immediately cease all use of
BMI-licensed music in the Establishment.

The suit, filed by Newark Attorney Brugh Lower Esq. asserts that "the specific acts of copyright infringement alleged in the Complaint, as well as
Defendants’ entire course of conduct, have caused and are causing Plaintiffs great and incalculable damage. By continuing to provide unauthorized public performances of works in the BMI Repertoire at the Establishment, Defendants threaten to continue committing copyright
infringement. Unless this Court restrains Defendants from committing further acts of copyright infringement, Plaintiffs will suffer irreparable injury for which they have no adequate remedy at law."

The lawsuit seeks for the defendants, their agents and employees, to be enjoined and restrained from infringing, in any manner, the copyrighted musical compositions licensed by BMI, and for the defendants to be ordered to pay statutory damages, costs, including a reasonable attorney’s fee, and such other and further relief as is just and equitable.

This lawsuit is likely not due to any specific dispute against this particular Lakewood venue.

Over the years BMI has sued hundreds of establishments that play their music without a license.

Such lawsuits are very easy to file as the right of copyright owners to sue over unlicensed performances of their songs at bars and restaurants is hardly in legal doubt. None other than Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes heartily endorsed the practice in a 1917 case called Herbert v. Shanley Co. He noted that music provides “to people having limited powers of conversation, or disliking the rival noise … a luxurious pleasure not to be had from eating a silent meal.” In other words, any songwriter or composer whose sounds fill the awkward pauses, or drown out the babbling of the drunken boor at the adjacent table, deserves to be paid for the favor.

Typically, their lawsuits are brought jointly with big-name musicians whom they represent. This often happens without the musicians knowing about it. When song performers agree to have BMI administer their royalties, they agree in advance that the organization can bring a lawsuit on their behalf.

BMI sends increasingly stern letters to unlicensed venues; if those letters are ignored, it sends investigators, who note the songs they hear.

It appears that this is the case of this particular lawsuit as all 6 claims arose from one single date, likely when one of their investigators was doing a stakeout.

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