On Thursday, the musical licensing organization the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) announced its filing of a copyright infringement lawsuit against Long Beach venue Gaslamp + Music + Bar + Kitchen, after years of fruitless negotiations regarding the cost of a license for the venue’s performances of cover songs written by songwriters within the organization.
ASCAP includes songwriter-performers as well-known as Beyonce and Jay-Z to songwriters who have remained behind-the-scenes, writing such hits as “Eye of the Tiger,” “If I Were a Boy” and more.
In a press release issued Thursday, the Gaslamp among nine venues listed in ASCAP’s copyright infringement lawsuit.
“We’ve been contacting them over the last four years, and they refuse to sign our license fees,” ASCAP Executive Vice President of Licensing Vincent Candilora told the Post.
“There are two major licensing organizations in the world: ASCAP and BMI [Broadcast Music, Inc.],” said Michael Neufeld, the owner of the Gaslamp. “They’re the same size companies. We do have an instituted licensing agreement with BMI, and we are in negotiations with ASCAP.”
Neufeld and Candilora said the crux of the argument revolved around the computation of ASCAP’s licensing fees, which are determined by many factors, including the size of the venue (their capacity as set by the fire department), location and more. Neufeld said he isn’t opposed to signing a licensing agreement—he just wants it to be fair.
“Hundreds of thousands of well-run businesses across the nation recognize the importance of paying music creators to use their music, and understand that it is both the lawful and right thing to do,” said Candilora in a press statement. “However, each of the establishments sued today has decided to use music without compensating songwriters. By filing these actions, ASCAP is standing up for songwriters whose creative work brings great value to all businesses that publicly perform their music.”
Candilora said according to their computations, the Gaslamp would owe $6,678 in licensing agreements.
“We strongly disagree with the way they’ve been computing their agreements,” said Neufeld. “There are so many components—it’s a myriad of computations.”
Candilora said ASCAP was not at liberty to amend the computations involved in creating the agreements.
“They want to negotiate a lower fee,” said Candilora. “We are absolutely prohibited from doing that, as it violates antitrust agreements. What is forbidden is to offer a cheaper license to similarly situated establishments.”
After negotiations stalled, ASCAP made the decision to take legal action, filing the copyright infringement suit Thursday. They determined the Gaslamp was allowing live bands to perform renditions of hits written by songwriters within the organization by hiring a private investigator—usually musicologists, according to Candilora—to visit the venue and record the exact violations.
“We hate filing legal suits,” said Candilora. The lawsuit lists four works of music used without a license, a much smaller number than the group would have cited if they were fond of filing legal action, Candilora said.
“We don’t need a dozen songs,” said Candilora. “We just want to make sure we prove a point.”
Meanwhile, negotiations are set to continue, and both sides expect to settle, rather than battle things out in court.
“We fully plan to get an agreement,” said Neufeld. “They’ve been very aggressive.”
Above, left: file photo.