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Sunday, June 16, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Judge Pulls the Plug|on DC Nightclub Act

(CN) - A federal judge has pulled the plug on a Washington, D.C., nightclub accused of putting on live performances of songs without first paying fees to the Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, which owns the rights to the songs. Zanzibar on the Waterfront also was ordered to pay $40,000 in damages and $74,000 in legal fees.

As members of ASCAP, labels like MOB Music, WB Music, 50 Cent Music and others filed suit against Zanzibar in September 2008 after an undercover ASCAP investigation on two occasions discovered singers performing six songs without permission.

The lawsuit further alleged that the nightclub manager knowingly let the club's ASCAP fees lapse, but continued to allow the unauthorized performances.

The nightclub argued that ASCAP failed to prove it owned the rights to the infringing songs, but U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan found the argument "unpersuasive," and slapped the club with increased fines to deter future infringement.

ASCAP represented that it would've been owed $27,000 had the nightclub properly obtained licenses to perform the songs.

But Sullivan fined the club $6,000 for each infringement on five songs, for a total of $30,000. He tacked on an additional $10,000 fee for a song that was performed at the club long after the labels filed their initial lawsuit.

Sullivan also awarded ASCAP $69,000 in attorney's fees, and $5,000 in costs.

The infringing songs included "Cha Cha Slide," "Around the Way Girl," "In Da Club," Big Poppa" and two Bob Marley tuners, "Jamming" and "Is This Love."

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