Sally’s faces copyright infringement lawsuit


A Stadium Village bar is facing up to $90,000 in fines after allegedly playing songs by Bon Jovi, AC/DC and Gwen Stefani illegally.

Sally’s Saloon and Eatery is facing a federal copyright infringement lawsuit from a group of plaintiffs that include major record label and publishing companies.

The suit stems from incidents at the bar on March 17, 2007 and Feb. 18, 2009. In 2007, Sally’s allegedly permitted unauthorized public performances of the songs “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC and “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi. “The Sweet Escape” by Gwen Stefani was allegedly performed illegally in 2009.

Bars and restaurants are required to attain proper licensing in order play or perform music. Licenses are granted through performance rights organizations such as the American Society of Composers Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) or Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI).

The lawsuit, filed Oct. 28 in U.S. District Court, claims Sally’s management did not seek or obtain a license agreement from ASCAP, which represents all three artists, “despite numerous letters and other contacts by ASCAP representatives” informing Sally’s of the violation.

The suit further states Sally’s continued to play the unlicensed music without permission.

The suit seeks to prevent Sally’s from playing the infringing songs anymore and requests damages ranging from $750 to $30,000 for each violation.

Sally’s managers and owners could not be reached for comment on the lawsuit Monday.

According to University of Minnesota law professor Thomas Cotter, composers, copyright owners or publishers will authorize organizations like ASCAP to sell public performance rights to venues like bars, which can then perform any of the songs the performance rights organizations have in their repertoire.

The amount needed to buy a license varies depending on the size of the business and how often they play the music, Cotter said.

In order to monitor unauthorized public performances, organizations such as AASCAP will send members out to observe unlicensed venues and determine whether they are “infringing the public performance right,” said Cotter.

What qualifies as public performance can range from a band covering a song or playing it over a stereo system. The lawsuit does not indicate whether the violating songs were performed at Sally’s by bands or played from recording.