A karaoke company is suing a group of Forest Park bars for allegedly copying and sharing digital files of their songs. On April 8, Slep-Tone Entertainment Corporation, creator of Sound Choice karaoke songs, filed suit against the owners of Blueberry Hill, Angelo O’Leary’s and the Shortstop Lounge as well as a satellite Blueberry Hill in Fox Lake.
According to the suit, Lynn and Mark Sorice, bar co-owner John Raniere, and a company registered to the Sorices, Ginance Inc., are accused of pirating karaoke music by “ripping” the special CD+G discs the company sells and then loading them onto a computer hard drive. The suit alleges that the defendants employ six KJs at various bars and did not pay any royalties or fees to Slep-Tone for the privilege of displaying their trademark during karaoke shows.
In the past year, the company has filed 26 lawsuits in Illinois against karaoke jockeys, or “KJs,” as well as against other restaurants and bars, including Legends Sports Bar & Grill in Glenview, America’s Bar and Grill in Hoffman Estates, and Rocky Vanders Café and Bar in Prospect Heights.
According to the suit, the company pays musicians to record popular songs, which are then coupled with a digital file of song lyrics. The lawsuit alleges that customers observing the “Sound Choice” trademark in the lyrics might confuse pirated karaoke with a legal copy paid for through Sound Choice.
The suit asks for damages of $25,000 for every karaoke system the bars own and $50,000 for every bar where the allegedly pirated karaoke was performed. They also request that every computer disk, drive or other media with Sound Choice songs on it “be delivered up for destruction.”
The company has filed lawsuits around the country, including a batch of suits against Las Vegas casinos and KJs, demanding $500 million in damages. The casinos defended themselves saying the KJs were independent contractors.
Other lawsuits have been filed in Florida, Ohio, Oregon, Nevada, New Jersey, California, New York, Washington, North Carolina and Alabama.
Taking a page from the file-sharing lawsuits filed by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in 2003 against individual users of Kazaa and Napster, the company has reportedly made offers to settle for $6,000 with KJs and bar owners in other states.
A protest website, www.soundchoicesucks.com complains that the company has generated a new business model of making money by threatening lawsuits against their own customers. Sound Choice co-owner Kurt Slep said in a post on the website that his company laid off 80 employees because of revenue loss due to pirating and has not recorded any new songs in two years.
“I really can’t talk about it at all,” said Blueberry Hill owner Marty Sorice. The Northern Illinois District Court issued a summons to Sorice’s wife, son and business partner on April 24.