ST. CHARLES – Three music publishing companies have filed a federal lawsuit against the Club Arcada in St. Charles for the unauthorized use of their copyrighted musical works.
Octave Music Licensing, Universal Polygram International Publishing, Inc. and WB Music Group filed the suit on Monday against the Club Arcada and Ron Onesti, president and founder of Onesti Entertainment Corporation, which operates the Club Arcada and the Arcada Theatre located at 105 E. Main St. in downtown St. Charles.
Onesti Entertainment Corporation also operates several other venues throughout the area.
The suit was filed in United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The three music publishing companies are members of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), a membership association that represents, licenses, and protects the public performance rights of its more than 700,000 songwriter, composer, and music publisher members.
ASCAP licenses public performances of its members’ musical works, collects license fees associated with those performances, and distributes royalties to its members. According to the lawsuit, since April 2017, ASCAP representatives have made more than 40 attempts to contact the Club Arcada and Onesti to offer an ASCAP license for the Club Arcada.
"Defendants have refused all of ASCAP's license offers for the establishment," the lawsuit stated. "The many unauthorized performances at the establishment include the performances of the three copyrighted musical compositions upon which this action is based."
Club Arcada was one of 19 venues cited nationwide by ASCAP for violating copyright laws. Club Arcada opened in 2017.
"We view litigation like this as a last resort," said Jackson Wagener, ASCAP's vice-president of business and legal affairs. "And it's only after we've reached out to establishment owners dozens of times usually over a year or more offering them an ASCAP license, explaining to them the obligations under the copyright law to obtain permission from music creators to use their work and also explaining to them the importance of the royalties to ASCAP songwriter and lyricist members."
The lawsuit alleges that on March 17, 2019, three songs were played at Club Arcada without permission – "Misty," "You Make Me Feel So Young" and "The Way You Look Tonight." An independent investigator hired by ASCAP was at Club Arcada on that date.
The suit asks that Club Arcada "be enjoined and restrained permanently from publicly performing the aforementioned compositions – or any of them – and from causing or permitting the said compositions to be publicly performed at the establishments or at any place owned, controlled, managed, or operated by defendants, and from aiding or abetting the public performance of such compositions in any such place or otherwise."
It also seeks damages of not more than $30,000 and not less than $750 "in each cause of action herein."
Onesti said the copyright violations were the result of a misunderstanding.
"I taked to them today," he said. "I believe it's a misunderstanding because we all thought that the Club Arcada is covered under a blanket license. But it turns out Club Arcada is a separate business altogether and should have its own separate license."
He said a determination now needs to be made as to what the fee to ASCAP should be.
"It's some paperwork shuffling, really," Onesti said. "I see it as a non-issue."
A status conference on the suit is set for Jan. 8. But Onesti hopes to get the issue cleared up soon.
"We should have it resolved by Monday," he said.