The Oregonian reports that Michael Dorr, a Portland restaurant owner, owes a large sum of money for letting local band Black Notes play three cover songs. The band played Jimi Hendrix's "The Wind Cries Mary," Stevie Wonder's "That Girl," and War's "Slippin' Into Darkness." And the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) wants the money.
Here is an excerpt from the OregonLive.com: "Because his place features local musicians and covers are rare, he didn't think he had to pay the musicians and publishers group an estimated $2,000 to cover performances of copyrighted tunes." But, because an ASCAP man came to eat and wrote down the names of the songs he heard, Dorr owes between $750 and $30,000 on each song for copyright infringement. Had a representative from ASCAP not paid this unannounced visit, Dorr wouldn't be facing bankruptcy.
"It's basically going to bankrupt me and put me out of business," Dorr, who is married and a father of two, told the Oregonian. "I can't afford the lawyer and the fees. It's going to close me down."
"It's a total bummer," he continued. "It's scary for me and my family. The restaurant business is hard and on top of other things, business is slow. This is the icing on the cake."
That is absurd, right? No jokes; that's ridiculous. I'm not the sharpest cheese in the fridge, but I didn't know it was against the law to play a cover or allow them to be played live. I thought you were safe if you announced who wrote it. But Dorr, owner of Imbibe on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard, is a living example of my ignorance. Does that mean the band, Black Notes, is guilty too? I don't know, and chances are, the common musician doesn't either. So... beware. At least make sure no ASCAP stings are in progress at your venue.
Really, what I'm saying is: don't play music. Abstinence is the only 100% effective method for staying safe. Just don't do it. But, we're young. We're human. So if you have to, do it in private and alone. Playing music, even on a hi-fi, is probably illegal, so don't do that either. Buying music, according to ASCAP and probably the RIAA, is the entertainment industry's version of the speed trap. Gotcha! You thought you were supporting artists! It was all a part of an elaborate copyright infringement scheme. Don't buy music; don't play it; don't sing it; don't let it be sung; don't even mention it. In fact, TMT is being sued for $60,000 and an H.J. for this article. So, by all means, give some money to the Wonder and Hendrix estates. In the meantime, everyone into the copyright prison!