California Nightclub Ordered to Pay ASCAP $85K For Copyright Infringement; Club Owner Calls ASCAP “Criminal Organization That Works Very Similar to the Mafia and Organized Crime”

By • October 2, 2006

Owners of The Owl Club in Roseville, CA. have been ordered to pay $85,545 to The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), as a result of the latest decision in a copyright infringement case begun more than a year ago related to music performed in the club.

ASCAP says they first contacted the Owl Club in August 2003 and that the Club’s owners continually refused to discuss their obligations to obtain permission or a license to perform copyrighted music lawfully in their club. In addition, in August 2004, when an ASCAP licensing representative went to the Owl Club to try to meet with its owners, ASCAP says one of the owners verbally abused the ASCAP representative and threatened him with bodily harm.

William Scheck, one of the owners of the Owl Club and a former special agent for the US State Department, told Film Music Magazine today that he feels ASCAP is a “criminal organization that works very similar to the mafia and organized crime” and characterized the actions by ASCAP as “strong-armed extortion tactics.”

Scheck said that the Owl Club is appealing the judgment and is filing a lawsuit against ASCAP under U.S. Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Under RICO, a person or group who commits any two of 35 crimes – 27 federal crimes and 8 state crimes – within a 10-year period and, in the opinion of the US Attorney bringing the case, has committed those crimes with similar purpose or results can be charged with racketeering. Those found guilty of racketeering can be fined up to $25,000 and/or sentenced to 20 years in prison.

According to ASCAP Senior Vice President of Legal Services, Richard Reimer, “The defendants, the owners of the Owl Club, consistently ignored the obligations imposed on them by the Copyright Law and refused to respect the property of the ASCAP members whose copyrighted music was being used without permission. To make matters worse, one of the owners threatened physical abuse to those representing ASCAP.”

Regarding ASCAP’s claims that one of the Owl Club owners “verbally abused” and “physically threatened” ASCAP representatives, Scheck responded, “Well I did threaten the guy and I would do it again. I’m quite proud of it, actually. I’ve been in law enforcement and to have someone come in and extort money out of you – I don’t care who they are, it’s a shakedown just like the mafia does.”

Scheck said, “ASCAP has alleged is that we played Bob Marley songs maybe 4 times. Maybe the royalties, if they ever got to whoever owned the copyrights if we allegedly did play this music, would be maybe 10 cents a song. The bands that perform in our club play their own music, that’s why we felt we didn’t need a license.”


By Rena on August 6th, 2011 at 4:26 pm

ASCAP is now harassing my little coffee house because we have a stage and musicians play their own original material – that’s all we allow! We are financially struggling, are coming up on our 1st year, and have ASCAP threatening us when we aren’t doing what they say and they aren’t proving that we are doing it! Is there a class action somewhere that we can join to stop these goons?

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