Sony/ATV Music Publishing is suing karaoke companies and individuals based in California, Korea and the Cayman Islands for copyright infringement and unfair business practices. The publisher claims that more than 200 songs are being used without proper licenses.

Named as defendants in the suit, filed in the federal District Court in Nashville, are California-based Cavs USA; Aaron Han; Ace Karaoke; David Su; Nutech Digital (Karaoke Klub, Magic Tracks, Nutech Party Paks, Nutech Nikkodo); and Lee Kasper. Other defendants are Seoul-based Cavs Multimedia and the Cayman Islands-based Three Boys Ltd. Sony/ATV administers most of its catalog in Nashville.

Karaoke CD+G and SCG+D recordings are re-recordings of hit songs either without the lead vocal or with a vocal track by sound-a-like singers. Under U.S. copyright law, the compositions must be licensed from the music publishers or their agents.

Karaoke use generally requires a synch license for graphical display of the lyrics, a mechanical license for reproducing the song and, if lyrics are reprinted in a booklet, a print license. Most publishers grant all rights in a single, negotiated license with karaoke manufacturers and distributors.

In January, a federal Court of Appeals in California held that a compulsory mechanical license does not include the right to graphically display or print lyrics for karaoke use. The companies must obtain a synch license from the music publisher at a negotiated rate.

The complaint claims that the defendants were involved in manufacturing and distributing the unlicensed recordings in physical formats as well as online. It claims they also streamed unlicensed samples on Web sites.

Sony/ATV lists 201 songs the publisher claims were infringed by the defendants, including "Hey Jude," "Eleanor Rigby," "King of the Road," "I'm a Believer" and "I Should Have Known Better."

Richard Greenberg, president of Nutech, tells Billboard.biz that the company's counsel is reviewing the matter. Greenberg says the suit involves a variety of issues that arose before the company was acquired by the current owners. Once they determine what went on, he says, the issues will be resolved.

Cavs and Ace declined to comment.

The suit seeks an injunction and damages up to $150,000 per infringement.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

Print