The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers — better known as ASCAP — has filed a lawsuit against Cincinnati's Jimmy B's Sports Bar & Grill over claims of copyright infringement.
The performance-rights group collects licensing fees from those who use their members' music, then redistributes the money to the members ASCAP represent — a wide range of composers, songwriters and music publishers.
ASCAP's complaint — in the name of publishers Almo Music Corporation, Stygian Songs and Head East Music — alleges that Jimmy B's allowed a live band to perform three songs by ASCAP members without being licensed to do so. Clubs, music venues, bars, restaurants and other spaces that allow the performance of music purchase blanket licenses which ASCAP says in a press release "amounts to less than just $2 per day for the right to play an unlimited amount of music."
Such legal complaints are commonplace when ASCAP is alerted to infringement. Jimmy B's is one of 15 venues across the country that ASCAP announced it was suing today (March 5) in a press release; the email sent to CityBeat had the subject line "Cincinnati Venue Refuses to Pay Songwriters; Profits from Their Music."
The licenses would cover songs by ASCAP members (there are over 740,000 members, so the song list is very long) that cover bands or solo performers would play in the venues, as well as karaoke performances. The complaint against the owners of Jimmy B's claims that on Nov. 9, 2019, three songs were played that were infringements on ASCAP members' copyrights — Styx's "Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)," Peter Frampton's "Show Me the Way" and Head East's "Never Been Any Reason."
According to the calendar on the venue's website, longtime Cincinnati Rock cover band Bad Habit played Jimmy B's that night. (The group has played the Styx and Frampton songs in the past.)
In the complaint, ASCAP says that since 2016, it has attempted to contact Jimmy B's more than 60 times to offer a license that would enable them to legally host such performances. "Defendants have refused all of ASCAP’s license offers," the complaint states. ASCAP says the venue was alerted of the violations but has "continued to present public performances of the copyrighted musical compositions of ASCAP members."
The complaint asks that Jimmy B's stop allowing performances of music by its members without a license and seeks statutory damages not more than $30,000 or less than $750 for each violation.
“Music is an essential ingredient for bars and restaurants, creating a meaningful connection with patrons and an ambiance that can attract and retain customers,” ASCAP Executive Vice President of Licensing Stephanie Ruyle said in the press release. “However, each of the establishments sued today has decided to use music without compensating songwriters. 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. By filing these actions, ASCAP is standing up for songwriters whose creative work brings great value to all businesses that publicly perform their music.”
Legendary songwriter and ASCAP Chairman of the Board and President Paul Williams added, "We want every business that uses music to prosper, including bars and restaurants. After all, as songwriters and composers, we are small business owners, too, and music is more than an art form for us. It’s how we put food on the table and send our kids to school."
Jimmy B's is located at 606 Ohio Pike in Union Township and offers a full menu, plus big-screen TVs for sports-watching. The bar/restaurant features live music every weekend by a variety of local Pop, Rock, Country and Dance acts, most of whom perform cover songs.
We've reached out to Jimmy B's Jim Bazemore (who is named in the complaint) for comment and will update this story when he responds.