On Oct. 29, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, known as ASCAP, announced it had filed 19 lawsuits for copyright infringement lawsuits. According to its press release, the suits target bars and restaurants with music venues that allegedly failed to obtain proper licenses from ASCAP for performances and other use of copyrighted works.

ASCAP is a nonprofit organization with 725,000 member composers, songwriters and music publishers. ASCAP handles licensing of members’ copyrighted works – numbering more than 11.5 million works of music – and in turn pays members royalties. ASCAP sells a collective license granting permission to use all these works without limit. Licenses are available not only to bars and restaurants, but also to radio, television, internet, mobile phone services and others.

ASCAP alleges that the defendant establishments have refused to purchase or honor licenses for members’ works and still allow them to be performed on their premises without permission. Defendants are 19 bars and restaurants across the country, including three in California.

Average annual licenses cost about $730.

According to the StarTribune, a bar in St. Paul, Minnesota, which is one of the defendants, settled with ASCAP the day of the lawsuit filing, but the details of the settlement were unavailable. That bar had told the paper before the settlement that their license fee had “nearly doubled in 2017 to over $10,000 annually … based on its 550-person capacity … and its frequency of events.”

Myrecordjournal.com reports that a Southington, Connecticut, defendant bar’s ownership group’s vice president said that ASCAP offered a $4,000 annual license, which the bar declined. The article says that one of the bar’s owners said on Facebook that ASCAP had been vague about what the license would cover and that ASCAP “had been difficult to work with.”

It will be interesting to see how other defendants react and what happens to these infringement lawsuits. We will keep readers informed.