- Associated Press - Sunday, May 21, 2017

CLEVELAND (AP) - An Ohio-based craft beer brewery was one of several establishments included in a lawsuit for music license fee violations.

Willoughby Brewing Co. faces a lawsuit from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. The lawsuit included nine venues in New Hampshire, Nevada, New Jersey, California and Texas.

The group collects royalties whenever its artist’s songs are played in public, whether live or recorded. The organization’s executive vice president described music as “enormously valuable” in a statement announcing the lawsuit.

A general manager of Willoughby Brewing told The Plain Dealer (http://bit.ly/2q3ECzw ) that he’s certain that the business has paid in full. The brewery was the only Ohio location named in the lawsuit. He declined to comment on how much the brewery paid in licensing fees.

Cindy Barber, co-owner of the Beachland Ballroom and Tavern in Cleveland, said Ohio businesses felt under pressure by music licensing organizations last year. She joined with owners of several other clubs to seek the assistance of copyright lawyer and former musician Mark Avsec.

“All venues are under the gun on this issue,” Barber said. She said Ohio businesses faced lawsuits of $5,000 to $8,000.

“That’s a lot of money for when you’re not really making money anymore,” Barber said.

Ohio musicians had views on both sides of the issue. Cleveland-based recording producer, Michael Seifert defended the lawsuit in a Facebook post.

“Musicians need every possible revenue stream they can get these days,” he said.

Local bassist Jim Bacha criticized the lawsuit, saying it puts people out of business.

Jackson Wagener, vice president of business and legal affairs for the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, said his organization used the lawsuit as a last resort.

Royalty fees are estimated through a formula that includes the number of nights a venue does music and the location’s fire-code capacity. Wagener estimated a venue that supports a fire-code capacity of 150 people while playing music on the weekend would pay about $750 a year in fees.

“We spend enormous resources explaining that the average ASCAP member is a songwriter who depends on royalties to put food on the table,” Wagener said.

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Information from: The Plain Dealer, http://www.cleveland.com

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