Copyright Law – Owner of Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles Learns the Hard Way about Copyright Damages and Attorneys’ Fees

In another example of what can happen if one is found liable for copyright infringement, the owner of Los Angeles civic treasure Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles was recently found liable for copyright infringement of 8 songs to the tune of $36,000 in damages ($4,500 per song) and $162,728 in attorneys’ fees and costs.

The copyright infringement in question was that a lounge found to be controlled by the owner of Roscoe’s played 4 songs by a live band and 4 songs by a DJ without an ASCAP license.  The $4,500 in damages per song is well within the range recoverable for copyright infringement.  Courts have the power to award attorneys’ fees to the victorious party in copyright infringement cases.  In this case, the court found an attorneys’ fee award was appropriate: the amount of the fees was largely the result of extensive argument over whether the lounge was in fact controlled by the owner of Roscoe’s.

Between the potential of significant damages, liability for the other side’s attorneys’ fees, and personal liability against anyone that exercises control over and receives a direct financial benefit from an infringing party (i.e. the lounge), the consequences of copyright infringement must be taken seriously by any business owner that uses music or other copyrighted material in their business.



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