Unless it's blasting out your ear drums, music at restaurants usually fades into the background noise of clattering plates and sauced patrons' boisterous laughs. Even so, a group representing license holders for the music industry wants restaurants to pony up cash to play music at their establishments and they're suing to make it happen. Nine restaurants on Long Island are facing lawsuits from ASCAP, which represents 500,000 musicians and publishers, reports Newsday. You can't play Jackson Browne's "Somebody's Baby" without throwing money to the song's writers.
According to the lawsuits, the restaurants were observed playing copyrighted material without obtaining the proper licenses to do so. Federal law states that any commercial establishment wanting to play copyrighted music in any form must first obtain the correct license that would pay out royalties to whomever deserves them. In the case of Digger's, The Homestead, BobbiQue and six other Long Island eateries, this didn't happen, despite numerous reminders from organizations representing the musicians. Eight years worth of reminders.
ASCAP says restaurants would pay about $705 per year to license its music, but restaurant owners counter that, saying they'll have to pay multiple entities, plus money spent on legal fees. Giacomo Jack's is being sued for 60K just for playing "I Only Have Eyes for You;" ASCAP is seeking up to $150,000 in damages depending on the transgression. One restaurant estimates that would mean about $15,000 out of pocket to deal with the lawsuit and future licensing fees. "I understand the licensing and all that," explained The Homestead co-owner Mike Ringle. "But I'm not Westbury Music Fair or Nassau Coliseum. I'm a small restaurant."