Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) says it has requested TMZ retract a story which the performing rights organization claims “misrepresents” its values and mission while including a “number of inaccuracies.”
In a story published Wednesday under the headline, “BMI Music Company Suit – Triggers 19 Nervous Breakdowns,” the celebrity news site reported that BMI had hit 12 bars and restaurants with lawsuits claiming the establishments had been playing their copyright-protected repertoire without paying a licensing fee.
The story identified The Fox Hole in West Jordan, Utah; Mojo Main in Newark, Delaware; Whiskey Bones Roadhouse in Rochester, Minnesota; and Kildare's Irish Pub in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, as among the targeted establishments.
For every BMI song that gets played on a bar jukebox or by a DJ without the proper fee being paid, the article noted, BMI is entitled to $150,000 in damages.
This isn’t exactly the case, a BMI spokesperson explains. In a statement issued to Billboard, the spokesperson notes that the organization is not "entitled" to $150,000 in fees when a song within the BMI repertoire is played publicly without a license. “BMI did not request $150,000 for an infringed work in any of these cases. The $150,000 penalty referred to by TMZ is actually the maximum statutory amount that the copyright owner can recover per infringement as permitted within the U.S. Copyright Act,” the spokesperson notes.
The article “misrepresents what BMI stands for along with the collaboration between performers and songwriters. Not all performers are songwriters and many songwriters that BMI represents make their living from their BMI royalties,” adds the spokesperson.
TMZ’s article also name-checks a long list of artists as being responsible for a “bunch of small town bars possibly getting forced out of business for the capital offense of playing their songs.” Sonny and Cher, Kansas, Michael Jackson, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bono, Whitney Houston, Dolly Parton and The Beach Boys are among the artists mentioned in the intro.
The collaboration between performers and songwriters is falsely represented, the BMI spokesperson continues. “Not all artists and performers are songwriters. This article inaccurately lists more than 20 artists and misrepresents them, assuming that they are all creators of musical works. The piece inaccurately suggests that these artists may be involved in litigation involving BMI.”
However, BMI does not argue that the 12 eateries identified by TMZ are in hot water for copyright infringement.
BMI licenses music to 650,000 businesses and distributes royalties directly to the hundreds and thousands of musical creators and copyright owners it represents.