A music licensing giant has sued one of Maine’s first craft brewpubs in federal court, alleging it violated copyright laws by failing to pay licensing fees for music therein. was played.
Broadcast Music Inc. and five of the songwriters it represents sued Gritty McDuff’s Brew Pub, located at 396 Fore St. in Portland’s Old Port, and owners Richard A. Pfeffer and J. Edward Stebbins Jr. Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Portland.
Broadcast Music Inc. and the artists are seeking an injunction to restrain Gritty’s from infringing the copyrighted material, as well as unspecified damages and attorneys’ fees.
The licensing company was granted the right to license the public performance rights to approximately 15 million copyrighted musical compositions, according to the complaint.
Gritty’s was founded in 1988 and was one of Maine’s first craft brew pubs.
Stebbins said Wednesday that he had not received a copy of the lawsuit but that the company had been paying music licensing fees regularly for more than 30 years that it had been in business.
The lawsuit does not include Gritty’s other sites in Freeport and Auburn.
The complaint alleges that Gritty’s willfully infringed copyrighted material seven times during public performances at the bar on May 18 and 19, 2019.
Broadcast Music Inc. has contacted Gritty’s and its owners more than 65 times by phone, mail and email since August 2018, according to the lawsuit. Those communications included “cease and desist” notices, but the violation continued, according to the complaint.
According to the US Copyright Office, songwriters who own the copyright in their work hire licensing companies such as Broadcast Music to deal with the artists who perform their material and the places where their work is performed, including breweries, bars and other venues. Venues where copyrighted material is performed are legally required to obtain licenses for performances of such material.
Penalties for copyright infringement include an actual amount of damages and a fine of $200 to $150,000 for each work infringed.
Broadcast Music is only taking legal action as a last resort, spokeswoman Jodie Thomas said.
“Under federal copyright law, when copyrighted music is played in any establishment, whether played by a live, recorded band, DJ, karaoke or a jukebox, the business owner must obtain permission from the copyright owner,” Thomas said. “In most cases, this permission comes in the form of a music license, saving business owners the time and expense of contacting each copyright holder individually.”
A license from the company would give Gritty “permission” to feature any work from its catalog, she said.