Calvin Theater sued for copyright infringement

NORTHAMPTON – An association representing songwriters, composers and music publishers says it has taken legal action against the Calvin Theater for “unauthorized public performance of its members’ copyrighted musical works “.

In an announcement on Tuesday, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers said it was taking legal action against seven institutions across the country, including the Calvin Theater, for their alleged refusal to purchase a license allowing venues to broadcast unlimited amounts of ASCAP. more than 11.5 million musical works. Under federal copyright law, companies using copyrighted music — if a band is playing a cover of another person’s song, for example — must get permission. to do.

The Calvin Theater is owned by Iron Horse Ventures, which is run by local entertainment and real estate mogul Eric Suher. In Northampton, the band also run the Iron Horse Music Hall, Pearl Street Nightclub and the Basement.

Efforts to reach Suher failed on Tuesday.

In a lawsuit filed Monday in federal court, global music publishing titans Universal Music and Primary Wave – both members of ASCAP – alleged that the Calvin Theater entered into a licensing agreement with ASCAP in 2001 This year, however, the theater did not pay for a license. charges despite two letters of notice, and in April his license was terminated, according to the complaint.

In court documents, the plaintiffs identify six copyrighted songs they claim were performed at the Calvin Theater on July 15. All were written by members of the rock band Chicago. On July 15, Chicago tribute band Leonid & Friends performed at the Calvin Theater, according to an archived version of the venue’s website. Plaintiffs are asking the theater to pay damages of between $750 and $30,000 for each of the six alleged copyright infringements.

“Songwriters depend on their performing royalties to make a living from their creative work, and it’s only fair that companies that have been fortunate enough to receive government assistance during difficult times to cover their expenses, such as the Calvin Theatre, pay songwriters whose music brings such value to their institutions,” ASCAP executive vice president of licensing Stephanie Ruyle said in a statement.

Iron Horse Ventures received a $152,829 loan under the Federal Paycheck Protection Program in 2020, which was later canceled.

In its lawsuit announcement, ASCAP said “nearly 90%” of its licensing rights go in the form of royalties directly to the more than 875,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers who are members of the group. The group said the average license cost for bars and restaurants is less than $2 a day for the right to play unlimited amounts of copyrighted music.

In a statement, ASCAP president and songwriter Paul Williams said most companies know that an ASCAP license “allows them to offer music legally, efficiently and reasonably priced” while by fairly remunerating music creators.

“We want all businesses that use music to thrive, including bars and restaurants, and we’re glad they’re on the way back after some very tough years,” Williams said. “As songwriters and composers, we’re also small business owners, and music is how we put food on the table and send our kids to school.”

The Chicago band is one of the best-selling musical groups of all time. The band states on their website that they have sold over 100 million records worldwide. The Recording Industry Association of America, which tracks US record sales, lists Chicago as having sold 38.5 million albums, the 39th highest of all time.

In 2008, Primary Wave acquired the music publishing rights to songs that Robert Lamm and James Pankow wrote with Chicago. Universal Music owns the two Peter Cetera-penned songs in question – “If You Leave Me Now” and “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day” – according to court documents.

Suher and the Calvin Theater have been the subject of complaints and lawsuits in the past regarding its business practices.

Last year, the state attorney general’s office ordered Suher to pay more than $100,000 in restitution and penalties after an investigation found he unlawfully underpaid employees, refused paid sick leave, failed to post workplace notices, and failed to provide accurate or truthful records to the state. . Suher has appealed these sanctions.

In June, New England state media, which first reported the alleged labor violations against Suher, reported that Suher and the state were close to reaching a settlement agreement.

Dusty Christensen can be contacted at [email protected]

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