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Intellectual property suits affect South Carolina businesses

Surprisingly, many people think music copyright is no longer “a thing,” but laws determining what you can do with other people’s intellectual property are alive and well.

Recently, dedicated followers of intellectual property (IP) news in South Carolina have been watching some high-stakes drama as major lawsuits have rattled some businesses. As a reminder that 21st century businesses need legal representation and a healthy respect for IP laws, here’s a glance at two recent examples of litigation.

Exercise equipment company sued for $150 million

Charleston will get South Carolina’s first Peloton showroom in October, unless there’s a last-minute change of plans. The company makes indoor stationary bikes and other equipment with screens that live-stream fitness content to motivate users.

This spring, a $150 million lawsuit for copyright infringement was filed against Peloton by a music publishing trade association, the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA).

NMPA accused Peloton of using music by many songwriters, including famous musicians, including Rihanna, Justin Timberlake and Lady Gaga, in the equipment company’s videos without getting the proper licenses to use the songs in video format.

Peloton has countersued, accusing NMPA of antitrust violations such as price fixing.

South Carolina saloon targeted in nationwide ASCAP crackdown

Thirteen bars and restaurants across the U.S. were hit with lawsuits early this year in a coordinated move by a non-profit performance-rights organization, ASCAP. According the ASCAP press release, the 13 venues had been repeatedly contacted and offered licenses but had refused to meet their obligations under federal copyright law.

ASCAP’s chairman and president explained, “As songwriters and composers, we are small business owners, too, and music is more than an art form for us. It’s how we put food on the table and send our kids to school.”

The 13 venues chosen for legal action included four in Florida, two in Texas, and one on Frenchman Street in New Orleans. The South Carolina venue bills itself as a honky tonk and features a calendar of live bands, comedians and swing dancing, plus oil wrestling, “revue” and speed-dating nights.

ASCAP’s Executive Vice President of Licensing points out, “When you see a patron at your business bobbing their head along to the music, you see firsthand the value music can add to any environment.”

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