97 Las Vegas Karaoke Locations Sued By 'Righthaven Of Trademarks' Demanding $500 Million

from the why-not-copyright? dept

Steve Green, who was the absolute best reporter covering the Righthaven saga, recently wrote about the fact that 97 Las Vegas karaoke providers were recently sued by a company called Slep-Tone Entertainment Corp., which apparently mainly does business as "Sound Choice," selling various karaoke content -- music and videos. Green notes that someone familiar with Slep-Tone has called it the "Righthaven of trademark infringement," though there are clearly some differences. First, though, the similarities: like many intellectual property "troll" operations, it appears that the goal of these efforts is to pressure companies into settlements, rather than actually get a judgment from the court. This has become an unfortunately common business model, where companies with a claim over some IP sue a ton of others at once mainly just to put pressure on them to "settle" for some amount -- often significantly less than what it threatens in the letter. And, it appears that Slep-Tone has at least some history of filing these kinds of mass lawsuits against a ton of defendants at once.

Of course, there are also lots of differences with Slep-Tone, in that it actually makes a product -- even if it's a somewhat silly and potentially obsolete product. I was a bit confused by the original article, because it never made clear what the actual trademark in question was -- and reading through some other lawsuits, it appears to be on the "Sound Choice" name and possibly logo, which is often displayed on the karaoke videos it produces. The other thing that confused me for a bit was why this was a trademark dispute, rather than a copyright dispute. After all, the key claim is that these karaoke locations were copying the content -- the music and the videos -- for use in karaoke machines, so shouldn't there be a copyright claim? But then it hit me: this is karaoke -- meaning that Slep-Tone probably doesn't hold the copyrights to the music in question in the first place. While it likely licenses the music for its karaoke productions, that license wouldn't necessarily give it the right to pursue others for copyright infringement on the music. Not knowing where it gets the videos from, I have no idea if there's a copyright issue there too, but it doesn't look like the lawsuits make any kind of copyright claim at all. Instead, they seem to focus on the use of the logo in the video to suggest trademark infringement -- which seems like an interesting way to get around the lack of copyright for copied content.

That said, again reading through some previous efforts -- and rulings (pdf) -- lends credence to the idea that these are questionable "trollish" claims in the first place. For example, in that ruling, linked above, the judge grants a summary judgment against Slep-Tone for failing to show any real evidence that its trademark was actually infringed on in the case. Instead, the company seems to rely on some very vague statements to claim infringement where none may exist:
While the Court sympathizes with Slep-Tone's claim that counterfeiting is a rampant problem that has devastated the karaoke industry, Slep-Tone has failed to direct the Court's attention to any evidence in the record tending to show either unauthorized use of the SOUND CHOICE marks, or that any of the allegedly infringing material originated with Defendants. In its response... Slep-Tone relies exclusively for evidence of unauthorized evidence of unauthorized use by Defendants on the affidavits of [two former employees of the defendant and one "purported expert"]... [None of these affidavits] establish any such facts. Instead, they provide vague and conclusory statements without foundation.
Whether or not Slep-Tone has a legitimate claim, it seems like we're seeing more and more of these kinds of cases -- using patents, copyrights and trademarks to bring mass lawsuits against a number of companies who may or may not infringe, where the goal often appears to be to push for settlements for a few thousand dollars (often cheaper than defending the lawsuit). It seems like this is a form of abuse of the judicial system, effectively relying on the threat of an expensive trial as a weapon to pressure companies (and, in some cases, though not in the above cases, individuals) into settling and just paying up to avoid the hassle and expense.

I'm not sure what the solution is to these kinds of lawsuits, but it seems worth calling out just how common these kinds of activities are becoming. IP holders using the "threat" of a lawsuit as a key component of a business model seems like a serious problem both for defendants in those lawsuits, as well as the public, which funds the courts through taxes. I'd be interested in ideas for ways to prevent this kind of abuse of the judicial system, where the key role of the courts is merely to act as "the heavy" in a "business model." That feels a little too much like a traditional protection racket.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 3:44am

    Well there goes the Japanese tourist revenue.

     

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    tpp, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 4:02am

    Example of job creation

    This is a great example of how IP laws are used to create jobs.

    /sarcasm

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 4:13am

    law makers and politicians have no idea what they have unleashed with their continual 'ramping up', unnecessarily, of trademark and copyright laws. now we get more and more of this type of action and less and less innovation. perhaps the way to relieve this situation would be for all 97 that are accused, to join together to fight this? at least they should collectively have sufficient funds.

    the ultimate solution, however, is for the old copyright/trademark rules to be scraped and new, sensible, 21st century laws to be written and implemented, that also deal with false claims/legal-like extortion that are happening atm.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 4:25am

    A loser pays type of system would probable curtail some of the activity. Also, a large per defendant fee to the court might deter mass filings

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 4:35am

      Re:

      A loser executed type of system would probably curtail some of the activity.

      FTFY.

       

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      Call me Al, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 5:20am

      Re:

      The difficulty with a loser pays system are those cases where the litigation is not a shake-down but due to genuine and understandable grievance. Those people can still lose. It would be a chilling effect of its own and would also reward those companies which have the size and legal budget to swat aside upstarts who dare to sue.

       

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    Torg (profile), Feb 20th, 2012 @ 4:25am

    The problem here isn't IP law, it's a court system that favors the accusers. If the loser in a court case had to pay for the winner's court costs plus whatever extra stuff like this would be more of a gamble.

     

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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Feb 20th, 2012 @ 4:26am

    Ok poking around in the linked articles this is sadly the state of the country.

    It appears that part of "Sound Choice"'s lawsuits are being driven by fear of the RIAA, or at least leaving that impression.
    They don't have the rights to have their materials on anything other than CD+G, so when someone moves them to a hard drive something "illegal" happened.
    They aren't so worried about that however, as long as the target can show them the original discs.

    The downside is there are reports of "Sound Choice" investigators telling venues that KJ's are being sued and they could be sued if they book them. (This would also explain the motion by State Farm in the linked ruling, if your gonna sue sue big). The principal of this cluster has often told people its best to speak to his people BEFORE talking to a lawyer, to keep costs down. This is the same advice copyright trolls are using is listen to what we say, pay us and don't "waste" money on a lawyer.

    While I am sure there are some evil types actively hurting their market by commercial copyright infringement (duplicating 1 copy onto multiple hard drives and selling them), I think this is also a cash grab to shakedown people hoping to find someone who lost a disc or receipt. (Shades of BSA)
    They make them sign an agreement for an "audit" that requires them to give up rights before they can even attempt to prove themselves innocent.
    At least 1 of these audits is reported to have taken place via Skype, and they only had to hold up a few of the discs. They were then dropped from the lawsuit, but the damage to their reputation had already been done.

    This is a legacy gatekeeper desperate to stay on top of the game. They focus on how much it cost them to create what they have, justifying high prices and ignoring the lowered costs tech advances brought them. They have failed to adapt to market changes, and blame their failure on people "stealing" from them. They found a way to get more money, and are going full speed ahead even if it ruins their customers. What future sales should you expect from the KJ's you threatened this way? 0. Then you can complain about them not buying from you and finding new resources, and try to get a law passed to stop that.

    Protip: If you sell something, then sue everyone who bought from you, your accelerating your demise. People will look for your competitors, even if they offer a crappier service - because they aren't suing wildly.

    Once again it becomes clear that this is the fault of the idea that Intellectual Property is our greatest asset.

     

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    Jeffry Houser (profile), Feb 20th, 2012 @ 4:40am

    Who owns the copyright?

    I have done some web site work for a Karaoke equipment seller in the past. They sold a bunch of "off the shelf" Stuff in addition to creating their own collections.

    For their own collections, they actually hired a studio to create their own recordings. So, while they wouldn't inherently own any song copyrights, they would own the copyrights to the recording of the song.

    I remember being told that this guys production company played him the original and the new recording side by side and they were indistinguishable.

    All that said, I don't know if that is a consideration in this case.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 4:41am

    IP laws proving how useless they are for the future.

     

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    Violated (profile), Feb 20th, 2012 @ 5:00am

    Parasites

    We are truly in a dog eat dog world. A good sign of a broken business model is when you need to sue your own customers.

     

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      Rikuo (profile), Feb 20th, 2012 @ 5:05am

      Re: Parasites

      There is no "need" here. That would apply if the only option available were to sue, but its not. You can instead change your business model and earn some goodwill from your customers, instead of treating the people who gave you money in exchange for products/services as bottomless wells, ready to be exploited.

       

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    F. Robert Falbo, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 5:34am

    So what's new?

    Companies like Sound Choice policing KJ's is nothing new. My Wife & I ran a small KJ business back in the 90's (Jessie's Jukebox Karaoke), and Sound Choice CD+G's were often the closest to the original music, though they were also the most expensive. It stated right on the label that these were "professional recreations", not the original artists, so I don't see why SC couldn't claim copyright to their "version" of each song. Even back then we heard stories of KJ's being busted for not having the original CD+G to prove they'd bought it. We always used the original disks - of course, that was before everything went digital.

     

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      That Anonymous Coward (profile), Feb 20th, 2012 @ 5:46am

      Re: So what's new?

      As to claiming copyright it is most likely a hugely murky space.
      There are the rights for the music.
      There are the rights for the performers.
      There are probably rights for the artist that made it famous.
      Then there are a series of rights that extract a little for various groups protecting "artists".

      With everything going digital, they merely needed to adapt their business model. Instead they are using Trademark enforcement to avoid looking like copyright trolls.
      They are filing mass suits with little to no evidence of any wrongdoing. The goal is to extract payments rather than protect their "property". This lets them save costs on naming each person, and get the right to search for wrong doing.

      They are pissed that a KJ business might buy 1 set of discs, but then have 4 people working for them. They might only be using certain discs at certain sites, but because they KJ business loaded the hard drives with copies they feel they need to get paid.

      It is very similar to the logic of the **AA's, where if I buy a DVD I'm not allowed to rip it to my home theatre system and my smart phone. I need to pay each time I want to shift the format, even though I can only use 1 copy at any given time.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 5:44am

    Seems like a stretch on Steve Green's and your part to use "Righthaven" in the headline, only to then have to explain all the ways it has nothing to do with Righthaven and isn't like Righthaven's operation.

    If you want to see their latest complaint, it's here: http://ia700808.us.archive.org/3/items/gov.uscourts.nvd.85925/gov.uscourts.nvd.85925.1.0.pdf

    I know you're ready to just call them a "troll" and take the other side, but maybe, just maybe, they are actually a victim and deserve to have their rights vindicated. It worries me that pirates can operate by the thousand-fold against one victim, but then if that victim goes after even a portion of the pirates, they get labeled all sorts of bad things by you and others. Why aren't you focusing on whether the defendants deserve to be called bad things too?

    It's disturbing how you jump right to this being an abuse of the legal system, with no care whatsoever for the abuse of the plaintiffs' rights that started the whole thing to begin with. Can you see my point, Mike? Do you see why it bothers me that you always side with the defendants, especially when it's the defendants who are the ones violating someone else's rights?

     

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      silverscarcat (profile), Feb 20th, 2012 @ 5:50am

      Re:

      Karaoke is pirating now?

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 5:55am

      Re:

      If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

       

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      That Anonymous Coward (profile), Feb 20th, 2012 @ 6:19am

      Re:

      So far their claims are insane.
      We saw what we assumed were people using copies of our stuff, now make them pay us.

      We saw what we are sure are counterfeit copies being used, except how can you make that determination from simply seeing a track played back on stage?

      They have to be guilty they advertise having 200,000 tracks and we don't have billions of dollars so they have to have gotten them from our materials!

      Our last 5 releases sucked really hard and no one bought them, so they failed because of piracy!

      And this entire filing seems to be based on THEY SHOWED OUR TRADEMARK MAKE THEM PAY US.

      They offer no proof beyond we said so that the discs are fake. They try to make them look like they all worked on concert to destroy the company by showing their logo on the tracks making consumers think they supported the shows.

      They want $2,000,000 per trademark infringed, per Defendant.

      Order the seizure of all computer disks, drives, or other media belonging to any of the Defendants, which media contain illegal counterfeits of registered trademarks.

      Except they have offered NO PROOF that these are counterfeits.

      One of the lawyers bringing suit can't prove he is allowed to practice in the state where he brought the suit.

      This is a failing company lashing out at everyone to get some money. They haven't proven their case in their filing - they make some claims but offer NO EVIDENCE.

      Could this be they purchased items unaware they were counterfeits?
      Could this be they hired an outside firm to run the show, and that firm has all legit stuff?
      Could this be they hired an outside firm and they were hoodwinked by them?

      This is suing the people with the deep pockets, in a mass suit that is nearly identical to the copyright troll suits.

      When you want to make a point about pirates sticking together and stuff... maybe you should make sure you pick a case that isn't obviously flawed.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 6:44am

        Re: Re:

        My read of the complaint is that it would survive a 12(b)(6) motion. If you have an argument to the contrary, go ahead and make it. What I see is a VICTIM suing the parties that violated its rights. It's weird you don't see that too, and that's part of my question to Mike.

        Mike was trying to tell me the other day that he's just like the ACLU defending the First Amendment rights of the KKK. That's not all what I see. I see Mike defending the wrongdoers, not the victims. And without knowing any facts other than that a plaintiff sued a defendant for infringement, I can tell you whose side Mike will take--the defendants. That's nothing like the ACLU, Mike. Sorry.

         

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          That Anonymous Coward (profile), Feb 20th, 2012 @ 7:00am

          Re: Re: Re:

          They are suing people they CLAIM violated their rights.
          They offer nothing to support that position.
          They are more than willing to entertain "settlement" negotiations.
          This is part and parcel of the copyright troll mass lawsuit pattern.
          By all means link any evidence they submitted to the court, I'm willing to entertain the idea they have been wronged, but demanding 2 million for each time their name appeared on a screen seems to be using Trademark to wring cash out of people.

          See I don't claim legal knowledge, but I've bested copyright trolls. Its not always required, and while a Judge might not dump this case suing 97 unconnected people all of whom might have different defenses seems poor form.
          Using a lawyer not cleared to appear as the main name on the case, seems fishy.

          There is no way defendants expect the court to hold all 97 named parties and representation.

          Other than the claims of the defendant, can you offer anything that actually supports their claims? Evidence... maybe you've heard of it. Because we said so is not a legal argument that stands up.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 7:28am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Of course they're "suing people they CLAIM violated their rights." That's what plaintiffs do. Yes, they are willing to settle. So what? They deserve to get paid if they had their rights violated by the defendants.

            I looked on PACER and they have about 80 lawsuits filed in the past 15 years. I'm not going to debate the merits and/or demerits of each. If you want to point to the complaint I linked to and explain why it's insufficient, go ahead. I doubt you understand how notice pleading works, so there's probably little point in having that conversation.

            I agree that there's probably no good reason for the defendants to be joined in one suit. But I'm also sympathetic to the huge problem victims like this plaintiff have with pirates violating their rights on a huge scale. Don't forget who the wrongdoers are. You guys seem all too happy to defend the pirates who team up against one innocent victim, but then you demand that the victim fight an expensive fight against each and every wrongdoer separately. Frankly, I think that's wrong.

             

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              That Anonymous Coward (profile), Feb 20th, 2012 @ 7:56am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              They are not claiming they are pirates, you are. They make some hints that the material might have been copied, but fail to make the case this is factual information about these defendants.

              They claim that these people displayed their trademark and this results in them being owed $2 Mil each time it happened.

              It fails on the simple premise of we observed. Even the copyright trolling firms have an "expert" statement attached claiming their super sekrit tech is infallible and how it was gathered.

              There are no wrongdoers here yet, you really really want to put the cart before the merits of the case are decided. In a prior case making similar claims they were tossed out because they failed to make their case. They made all sorts of arguments to cloud the issue, but failed to prove their claim. They added in an insurance company to the filing to try and get money from a deeper pocket.

              It is fun seeing you trying to paint them as these poor innocent people being ripped off, when you can't prove they are being ripped off. You can't offer any proof these "pirates" got together and did anything to them. They could have just made the case against Caesars and then gotten settlements from the others proving their case.

              You want to confuse the issue by calling them pirates, because that connotation implies they are evildoers. You portray people concerned about overreach of the legal process to obtain money they might not actually be entitled to as pirate supporters. You completely ignore the issue that this is becoming a new business model to threaten lawsuits to scare people into settling because putting on a defense to even baseless charges could destroy their business.

               

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                Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 7:59am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                You just aren't saying anything that makes sense to me. Sorry, but I see no point in chatting with you further.

                 

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                  That Anonymous Coward (profile), Feb 20th, 2012 @ 8:09am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Awwwww... you have issues keeping up with me ripping down your nicely painted illusions?

                  Which word was it that tripped you up? If and or the?

                   

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                    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 8:26am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    Wow. Is that really what you think you've done? The fact is that you're spouting a bunch of incoherent nonsense, and I can tell that having an intelligent conversation with you isn't possible. Sorry, but that's the way I see it.

                     

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                      That Anonymous Coward (profile), Feb 20th, 2012 @ 8:33am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                      And here you said you saw no point in continuing to chat with me. I feel so touched that you bothered, but then you can't handle letting anyone else get the last snarky word in.

                      I made clear points, but because they don't support the narrative in your head you decided they were babbling.
                      You have yet to actually deal with the real issues I raised instead just throwing out rehashes of the same things you've said all along.

                      Your fishing trying to get Mike to make some sort of comment you can use to support your idea that he supports pirates and such, and its just not working for you.

                      Seriously you can't get past the issues I raise, while I think of myself highly I'm not the best and brightest here, so I doubt you will manage to get Mike to bother with you while you keep making loaded statements over and over and refuse to engage in actual debate on the merits of using the courts as an enforcer of a questionable business model.

                       

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                      Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 11:41am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                      That's funny, the rest of the class understands exactly what he is saying.

                       

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                        That Anonymous Coward (profile), Feb 21st, 2012 @ 2:24pm

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                        I figured out where I failed, it appears that my mind substituted Plaintiff and Defendant at least once.

                        This is a failing of my brain, sorry. I typo and transpose words from time to time, I do my best to correct them when I am rechecking my posts, but sometimes I miss them.

                         

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 6:26am

      Re:

      So its suddenly OK to use the judicial system as a "lever" in your business model now?

      Awesome.. what is your address and the address of everyone in your field. I want to send threatening letters demanding payment for something that you haven't clearly got the rights to, and neither does anyone else in your field, and I am going to offer you a settlement that is much less than the cost of a lawsuit.

      You don't have a problem with that.

      Right?

      Since you have no problem with this company doing it, you wouldn't mind being on the receiving end of it.

      Right?

      Can you see the point?

      Do you see why it bothers us that you always side with the lawsuit trollers? Especially when they are using taxpayer dollars to get their settlements.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 6:47am

        Re: Re:

        A victim is suing the parties that violated its rights. Just as it should be.

        How do you figure that this plaintiff is suing for something it doesn't have the rights to? I suspect you're just making that up.

        The way you all jump to defend the wrongdoers, without a care in the world for the victim, is really despicable. Unfortunately, that appears to be the norm on Techdirt.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 7:15am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Ever heard the expression "Innocent until proven guilty"?

          Your "victim" seems to have failed, so far, to prove that it is actually a victim. And yet, you assume that the "others" are the wrongdoers. And to top it off, you accuse us of being despicable.

          Nice going scumbag.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 7:30am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Huh? You're not making any sense. Of course they are innocent until proven guilty, or rather liable, since this is a civil suit.

            If you're just going to call me names, I'll see no reason in chatting with you. Typical Techdirt response to anyone who says something that goes against the herd-think.

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 7:35am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              You said:

              "The way you all jump to defend the wrongdoers, without a care in the world for the victim..."

              This seems to presume that there is actually a victim and a set of wrongdoers. Guilty until proven innocent and all that. You conveniently also ignore the fact that your alleged victim has not been able to prove that it is a victim at all.

              So, yeah, you're a scumbag.

               

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                Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 8:03am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Sigh. Thanks for adding nothing to the conversation. My point still stands that Mike sides with the pirates-defendants every time, no matter what the facts are.

                I hope Mike will chime in since my comments are directed towards him. You guys just add nothing to the conversation. Sorry.

                 

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                  Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 11:49am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Actually, there is no basis in fact for this statement. Mike readily recognizes when a defendant has little chance of defending against the assembled evidence. When there is a decided lack of evidence, as in this case, he will back the defense.

                  Now, someone has asked you multiple times to link to evidence, and you have failed to do so. Point of fact, you have ignored this request as though it were never made. I suspect you will do so, again.

                   

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                    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 12:02pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    Point me to the complaint that you're talking about, and I'll be happy to explain what facts it asserts that make it so that it would survive a motion to dismiss.

                    My point stands though. Mike sides with the defendants, and he cares not about the plaintiff who is the actual victim. I just don't get it. And for him to pretend like he's just sticking up for what's right like the ACLU does is laughable. You don't see the ACLU defending every single thing the KKK does.

                     

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          Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 7:45am

          Re: Re: Re:

          When did I say anything about the plaintiff not having the rights to what they were filing a case over?

          I said the defendants "clearly" didn't have the rights. Which was part of the sarcasm. Which you didn't even respond to correctly. (I even state everyone else in your field, which would be the other 96 potential defendants)

          I suspect you are the one making stuff up about what I said.

          Which is no less despicable than what you purport.

           

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      ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Feb 20th, 2012 @ 6:58am

      Re:

      Seems like a stretch on Steve Green's and your part to use "Righthaven" in the headline, only to then have to explain all the ways it has nothing to do with Righthaven and isn't like Righthaven's operation.

      I know it was in the middle of the first paragraph, and you likely skimmed over it, but there was this, "First, though, the similarities: like many intellectual property "troll" operations, it appears that the goal of these efforts is to pressure companies into settlements, rather than actually get a judgment from the court."

       

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    The Devil's Coachman (profile), Feb 20th, 2012 @ 6:43am

    Anything that can make karaoke go away is fine with me.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 8:03am

    "That feels a little too much like a traditional protection racket."

    Obvious solution? RICO.

     

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    Nastybutler77 (profile), Feb 20th, 2012 @ 8:44am

    Myah, see. You'll pay up if you know what's good for ya, see.

     

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    Pixelation, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 9:54am

    One thing that could help is if someone running these type of shakedown rackets loses in court they should have any related settlements nullified.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 10:19am

    A possible solution

    Are settlements required to pass court muster? I don't know. But if they're currently not (and I know this would add a burden to already over-crowded court dockets), then the claims in the settlement letters should be placed before a judge who could rule on whether the case has any merit prior to the settlement papers going out. No ruling on merit, no settlement offer. And anyone would be allowed to file amicus during the merit ruling period.

    Of course, the person filing the settlement papers is the one who pays the court fees.

     

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    Duane, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 12:45pm

    How about this?

    It sounds like a protection racket to me. One entity (righthaven, slep-tone, etc) comes to your shop (or sends you a letter, or files a suit), and threatens to do something that will cost you money (pursue their legal action or bust up your property), and you must pay them off to keep them from doing it.

    These kinds of suits should be open and shut, quick and easy to defend against. Of course, they aren't, and that cost is enough to put someone out of business.

    I really think we need a law that the loser pays *ALL* costs and fees in a case, and that the bench be given power to levy a civil penalty of up to 100% of those costs onto any plaintiff whose suit they dismiss as trivial or otherwise lacking in any reason to exist.

    This would make these idiots think twice about wasting MY tax money adjudicating silly suits. Legal action should be

     

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    G Thompson (profile), Feb 20th, 2012 @ 8:49pm

    Basic Tort reform

    - I'm not sure what the solution is to these kinds of lawsuits,

    1. Limiting joint and/or several liability rules to proportionality instead (Not all US states have done this in civil suits)

    2. Make joining parties that should never be joined a Rule 11 breach.

    3. Follow the common sense and 'English rule' of LOSER PAYS be it fully or equitable dependant on whether the Plaintiff or respondent fully or partly lose. And yes I know the USA has Rule 11, but it's a paper tiger and only for attorneys and then really only for frivolous and ethically dubious suits.

    In other words basic tort reform (without talking about limits on damages) is needed in the USA. Especially in the areas of Contract, Neg, and IP Law.

     

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    InsaneKJ, Feb 21st, 2012 @ 12:16pm

    Come in here and become educated on karaoke piracy and why Sound Choice is doing what it is doing.

    http://karaokeusa.forumotion.com/

     

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    InsaneKJ, Feb 21st, 2012 @ 12:16pm

    Come in here and become educated on karaoke piracy and why Sound Choice is doing what it is doing.

    http://karaokeusa.forumotion.com/

     

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    KJ (profile), Feb 21st, 2012 @ 1:38pm

    A legal working KJ's point of veiw

    I have been a karaoke show operator in Florida for eighteen years and have been following the trademark infringement (piracy)issue develop. For many years karaoke manufacturers hoped that piracy of their products would go away. They wanted to believe that good would prevail, and many more people would buy their products than would steal it.

    I have always bought all of the products that I use. However, through the nineties and beyond the piracy problem proliferated until dozens of american karaoke manufacturers were forced out of business. Now only a handful of these companies are still in business.

    The problem is that when a new karaoke disk is produced and sold, it has become a matter of weeks before the music is being copied and distributed illegitimately. Within weeks their are far more illegitimate copies of the music in circulation and use than were ever sold legitimately.

    This situation stopped Sound Choice from producing music in the common CD+G format years ago. They continue to produce the music now on a different format that is more controlled and protected from piracy. But that doesn't correct the damage that has already been done.

    Sound Choice was once the largest producer of karaoke music in the industry. In order to survive, they were forced to reduce their operation to a handful of employees. As a result many dozens of PEOPLE LOST THEIR JOBS!

    If I were Sound Choice, I would have done exactly what they have done. First attact the first half of the problem. Try to put the people out of business who are copying the music and distributing it without permission. Second, make the commercial karaoke operators who use the music without paying for it pay up. The latter has required many more suits to be filed to make a dent in that part of the problem.

    If there was a different legal remedy for the damage done to Sound Choice, I think they would persue it. Unfortunately, I don't see any other remedy.

    In conclusion, all indications show that karaoke is still a viable form of entertainment that is enjoyed by more fans than ever. This is certainly not a "silly" or "obsolete" industry.

     

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    Chris Avis, Feb 24th, 2012 @ 10:41am

    I am a relatively new karaoke host. I have been hosting for only just over 1.5 years. But my day job is with a large software company that I have worked at for 17 years. I have seen software piracy cut into profits of those that create it, and I have seen end-users suffer from installing hacked and mal-ware/virus infused version of counterfeit software.

    I came into the karaoke hosting business knowing that I was going to do it legally and purchase discs/licences for every single rig I use. I knew I would be competing against hosts that may have a library of 1000 or more discs that they actually paid for, but ripped them down to use on 2,3 even 7 different rigs. There are many hosters that never paid a penny and run multiple rigs using tracks that weren't paid for at all. It makes it difficult to know i am investing more in getting one rig up and running legally than they have getting 7 rigs up and running.

    People may disagree with HOW Sound Choice is defending the karaoke industry, but it is hard to deny that they have reason to preotect it. WHY they are doing it is what more people should focus on. Instead, there are many that get mired down in the whoel copyright/trademark/shotgun approach aspects and completely ignore that something has to be done. Period.

    -Chris

     

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    Alice Ballmer, Mar 5th, 2012 @ 8:54pm

    Slep Tone - Sound choice

    Sound choice doesn't ask the KJ if they own the disc, they just see the logo and sue you. I have been a KJ for 27 years and have spent thousands of dollars on their cd's. Over the years I have done contest thru Sound Choice where the people could only sing off a Sound Choice cd, KJ's have promoted their products for years and now they are trying to extort $8500.00 from KJ's for 4800 songs. What a rip off. I refuse to play any Sound Choice Disc even the ones I own. After this lawsuit I would like to take them to North Carolina and burn them in front of their office

     

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      Stephen M Miller, May 6th, 2012 @ 1:17pm

      Re: Slep Tone - Sound choice

      Alice, why wait burn them now!

      Has Sound Choice filed a lawsuit against you? Me neither!

      Has Sound Choice asked you to purchase 4800 songs from them for $8500? Me neither!

      Yep, I did two contest with Sound Choice back in the day and part of what I paid for was a set of disc for each contest (which I used for giveaways during the contest).

      If Sound Choice hasn't filed a lawsuit against you and hasn't threatened doing so and you own the disc for each song on your hard drive (then you are only guilty of technical infringement and that can be cleared up with a simple audit) then what are you concerned about?

      I can understand the pirates being angry because they got into this for little to no money and they are used to beer tab pay, and I can understand the "angry little man" KJs who started out as legal KJs but with the advent of computer Karaoke rushed to increase their profits by running multiple systems off the same set of disc, having to drop several systems meant a large revenue drop for him and he is angry. The pirates are angry because if they get caught they are going to have to actually purchase the product they have been using. What I don't understand is anyone who makes the claim that they actually own the disc for the product that they use being scared and angry it just doesn't compute!

       

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    TJ, Mar 9th, 2012 @ 9:18am

    INFRINGING ON LOGOS AND COMPANY MARKS

    I don't see why it took SC so long to sue the Karaoke KJs for infringment, they have been in the karaoke business for over 20 years and putting music to a hard drive is nothing new and they were aware of it. I would think that the people who bought their discs should look into the actual copyright for synch violations as sc haS been sued multiple times for selling unlicensed music and many of the kjs have discs in their catalog that didn't have the proper licensing at the time of the sale. The fact is, the discs that had the infringing songs needed to be pulled off the market and the kj reimbursed for SC's indescretion. I still have an Eagles disc that Henley freaked on and if you think they are making you buy new discs to be jerks the fact is probably that some of the discs in their current library are in violation of the copyright laws and in reality, Sound Choice should be paying the kjs for the discs that were actually pulled from the market for copyright violations. A huge lawsuit by everyone of the kjs that got sued by SC would be one way to recoup your losses, I think it is called a class action suit. I am tired of hearing SC bark that their rights have been violated when they have directly violated (SC) the very people who bought their music, I would say thousands of violations is enough to make them straighten up and fly right.

     

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    toopoortoworry, Mar 28th, 2012 @ 5:56pm

    karaoke; sound choice, & the day the music died...........

    Just tired of reading about how sound choice is ruining the very people who work for peanuts every night showcasing their products, and building their brand name. I have never seen such a greedy person(Mr. Sleptone) in my life. If it is truly about right and wrong, go after the ones who don't own a disk, the ones that charge a hundred bucks a night,and say they have over 40-100 k in songs. How does that business model work?
    If I can offer any words of advise to would be KJ's, incorporate , get an LLC, that way if you are sued, theycan have the business; walk away, and protect your personal assets. If this clown wants to make it about money, then don't make it worth his while.
    This used to scare me, not anymore, since I have a great lawyer, note how they don't try this in the Northeast, where there is one lawyer to every 100 people. bring it on Slepp.
    :P

     

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    C. Staley, Apr 17th, 2012 @ 7:02am

    SoundChoice

    Seriously? InsaneKJ (Mark Nelson) doesn't have a clue what he's talking about.

    Sound Choice doesn't sue for copyright because they don't own the copyright to the original song or lyrics or even timing on the synchronization. All they have left is trademark and that's what the use as a "hook" to drag these hosts to court. They have been known to sue karaoke hosts using their ORIGINAL DISCS in shows and even suing karaoke hosts who play a PATRON'S ORIGINAL DISC. They've refused to guarantee that if a host uses the original discs they purchased that they won't be sued for it. How ridiculous.

    They are "trolls" in the worst way.... Just look up how many times Sound Choice has been sued in the past by publishers for the very same piracy they are now claiming to be fighting.

     

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    Stephen M Miller, May 6th, 2012 @ 1:04pm

    It is really very simple if people weren't STEALING the songs then Sound Choice wouldn't be filing lawsuits against them.

    For those that were stupid enough (like the "angry little man" here) to make 6 or 7 copies of their owned library plus add in several thousand more pirated songs then they wouldn't have had to dismantle or hide 6 systems. Yes people are angry about the situation they now find themselves in but it isn't about what Sound Choice is doing, it is about them being caught with their hand in the cookie jar.

     

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    Craig McLaughlin (profile), Apr 19th, 2013 @ 3:39pm

    Slep-tone Lawsuit Development

    There have been a number of developments in the Slep-tone mass lawsuits since the most recent comment here. One pertains to a case that Slep-tone filed in Los Angeles naming over 70 defendants, karaoke jockeys and venues. I had the pleasure of representing two of the defendants. Not unlike many of its other income producing cases where Slep-tone sued its own customers, many defendants had settled with Slep-tone. We even paid Slep-tone $5,000 in nuisance value settlement. However, Slep-tone failed to dismiss the case as required by the settlement agreement. So our fight continued. Since it did not file any pre-trial papers or appear at the pre-trial conference, Judge Otis Wright, II, called the parties "comatose" and dismissed Slep-tone's claims for failure to prosecute. We then filed a motion for fees as the prevailing party under the Lanham Act. Slep-tone failed to timely oppose, brought in new counsel and blamed it all on its original lawyer. But Slep-tone had known many months prior of multiple missed deadlines by her in the Las Vegas case and did nothing about it. In fact, Slep-tone had blamed her there too. Judge Wright had none of it. I am happy to report that Judge Wright granted our motion and awarded all fees claimed. In his order, he called Slep-tone's case a "shakedown" and that they took "trolling to the next level." He also found its conduct to be in bad faith and vexatious. A blow-by-blow account can be found on the blog of Las Vegas lawyer, Robert Kossack.
    http://soundchoicelasvegaslawsuit.com/los-angeles-court-orders-slep-tone-to-pay-suganos-attorneys- fees-by-a-date-certain/
    Other parts of the blog reveal that Slep-tone has sued its investigator APS and Steve Brophy and provided as an exhibit to the complaint its agreement with them contemplating suits of 1000's of defendants.

     

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    A Legal KJ, Jul 31st, 2013 @ 2:28am

    Alice why burn them now ?

    Alice WAS sued and was forced out of business because of her piracy...she then continued to run shows and was sued again all the record are available at Justia...poor little KJ working for peanuts(she cried broke and unable to even support herself). That at one point was legal and bought all her own discs, she fell in hard with the pirates bought a HD and is pissed that she was caught. If she could have afforded a trip to SC to burn her discs the would have left a very small burn mark indead

     

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    c. staley, Aug 30th, 2013 @ 1:55pm

    Funny that InsaneKJ (a.k.a. "RoachMouth") conveniently leaves out that In one of the lawsuits against sound choice by a supplier, sound choice has now been charged with violations of the RICO act for what is described as their "enforcement enterprise."

    Another interesting turn of events: many of the "certified" KJ's that have been the most outspoken in favor of sound choice have turned tables and are now jumping ship one by one. They have finally come to the realization that these manufacturers are not out to help their own customers or to help reduce piracy but only out to help themselves.

    It looks like their little castle is crumbling.

     

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      Stuart, Sep 27th, 2013 @ 6:55am

      Response to: c. staley on Aug 30th, 2013 @ 1:55pm

      What we need are stricter laws on people who are selling and using the illegal music files. If you sold a stolen car or was caught driving a stolen car you'd be arrested. Same should be true for this. If people actually bought their music be legitimate means there wouldn't be any law suits and there wouldn't be this article or comments or........

       

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        Craig McLaughlin, Sep 27th, 2013 @ 8:38am

        Re: Response to: c. staley on Aug 30th, 2013 @ 1:55pm

        As an update to the original author's post wherein he links to a 2011 ruling of summary judgment against Slep-tone and in favor of Karaoke Kandy Store in Ohio, Slep-tone successfully overturned the ruling summary judgment and the case went to trial. The results for Slep-tone at trial, however, were disastrous. At trial, the jury and judge ruled in favor of KKS. Slep-tone was also ordered to pay KKS' costs. The case was tried by Slep-tone's main spear carrier, James Harrington, Esq.. Seems when Slep-tone is faced with proving its allegations, it has not done so (well OK one case in Florida Slep-tone alleged millions in damages and achieved a whopping $9K verdict which was based on full retail price of discs, not on its much lower profit as Kurt Slep testified to in deposition in the Las Vegas case - ask Robert Kossack, Esq.). Slep-tone brags about recoveries, but those are early settlements (Slep-tone's main strategy) against those too scared to go to trial. With these results, it should be trial that Slep-tone fears.

         

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    Dj V, Nov 14th, 2013 @ 11:57pm

    Is there a light in sight?!!

    It begins as an antequated perspective of the entertainment business. It's been just as hard for us to keep up as them demanding money!The tactics of accusation are unreasonable! People should absolutely pay for things.. But, this KJ business is rough! Drives continually crash and devices are hard enough, let alone maintaining an original disc after umteen years! If Sound Choice was all that... They should've considered where technology was headed and how to meet it head on to stay alive! Shame on Slep- and Kurt for not putting the right foot forward to keep his business alive!! Why blame everyone else!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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