Music ranging from “Ring of Fire” to “Billie Jean” cited in MN copyright suit

October 27, 2011

Ring of Fire, Walk Like an Egyptian, and Billie Jean are among a potpourri of songs that two Twin Cities-area taverns are accused of playing without paying for the rights to do so.

Music-licensing company BMI started copyright-infringement lawsuits in Minnesota federal court last week.  The Defendants are  bars called Brewers of Jordan (in Jordan) and Courtside Bar & Grill in Anoka.  (The complaints are here and here, and exhibits here and here.)

Ring of Fire is among the songs both bars are accused of playing, back in early August.  The list of other songs Brewers allegedly played reads like a middle-aged dad’s iTunes library on shuffle:  Billie Jean, Cover of the Rolling Stone, Have Mercy, Mama He’s Crazy (a/k/a Mama She’s Lazy), Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys, Mountain Music, Proud Mary, Simple Man, Something to Talk About, Walk Like an Egyptian, Watermelon Crawl, One of these Nights, Snow Hey Oh, and Little White Church.

The lawsuit alleges the Anoka bar played four songs, including Ain’t No Sunshine, Simple Man, and Jumper.

BMI’s website explains that it “collects license fees from businesses that use music, which it distributes as royalties to songwriters, composers & music publishers.”   Companies that own the various copyrights are listed as plaintiffs, too.  And in the Brewers suit, so are “sole proprietor” artists Kenny O’Dell, Shirley Eikhard, Glenn Frey, and Obed Wayne Kirkpatrick.

The cases are the musicians’ to prove.  But the lawsuit does draw attention to an often-understood reality about music and downloads:  we don’t own the songs.  Instead, we own a license to listen to the songs we “purchase.”   Purchasing music for use at home, in the car, etc. does not necessarily mean the music can be used for commercial purposes.

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2 Responses to “Music ranging from “Ring of Fire” to “Billie Jean” cited in MN copyright suit”


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