Phoenix, AZ Takes Center Stage in Karaoke Piracy Battle:

July 20, 2009 by Eric Godfrey

Sound Choice, a leading manufacturer of karaoke discs has filed a federal trademark violation lawsuit against 15 karaoke venues and Karaoke Jockeys (KJ’s) in the Phoenix area.  Alleging use of illegally obtained and unauthorized copies of karaoke content on hard drives, Sound Choice is asking for a jury trial to determine damages for lost revenues, “statutory damages per trademark infringed by counterfeiting”, and all profits realized by the defendants as a result of their unfair business advantage from counterfeiting of the trademarks.  Intellectual Property lawsuits have been prominent in recent news with the RIAA winning a nearly 2 million dollar verdict for willful infringement and a Blogger being sentenced to a year’s probation after leaking a Guns N’ Roses album to the internet.

Local Phoenix establishments and companies listed as defendants in the suit include karaoke hosting companies; Dennis Gorrel d/b/a Big D Productions, Abraham Cortez  d/b/a Carousel Karaoke and DJ Company, Dan Dan the Taxi Man (actual identity unnamed),  William Ludlow II d/b/a Dirty Goat Productions, Greg Kimble d/b/a Dynamic Sound Production,  Debbie Simmons d/b/a Karaoke Fever, Trey’s BadAss Karaoke (actual identity unnamed),   Ernest McCullar d/b/a Wired for Sound, and restaurant – bar establishments; Boston’s Bar and Grill located in Tempe,  the Breakroom located in Phoenix,  the Grapevine located in Scottsdale, Hazelwoods First Place Sports Grill located in Phoenix, Hurricane Bay Nightclub located in Phoenix, Lighthouse Sports Bar located in Avondale, the Regal Beagle Sports located in Chandler.  Representatives of Sound Choice with assistance of United States Karaoke Alliance (USKA) members conducted investigations and amassed evidence in the months preceding the lawsuit being filed.

Sound Choice is a leader in the karaoke community and has invested nearly 20 million dollars in their karaoke music catalog.  In the mid 90’s Sound Choice routinely put out up to 5 new Karaoke discs per month and employed 75 people.  With the actions of those pirating their music, they now employ less than 10 people and  their last disc release sold under 800 copies, yet can be found on thousands of karaoke systems across the United States.  As stated in their suit,  “Sound Choice has been forced to undertake this litigation in order to ensure that it survives and continues to produce the high-quality karaoke music its fans demand, and to level the playing field for the legitimate KJs.”

US Karaoke Alliance President, Eric Godfrey, stated, “As legitimate KJ’s, we support Sound Choice’s endeavors.  Due to piracy we can no longer get a fair price for our services as a substantial majority of karaoke jocks are using illegal content.  Almost every disc that comes out is now being shared on the internet or sold on hard drives.  As a result of this piracy, all legitimate karaoke disc manufacturers already have or are in danger of going out of business”.

Bobby Brooks, Vice-President of the USKA added,  “While KJ’s buying music legally have spent tens of thousands of dollars, KJ’s using pirated content have no cost and therefore have offered services for much lower fees, driving down the actual fair market cost for KJ services”.

Sound Choice started these actions, but other Karaoke publishers are watching Phoenix as the test case for legal action.  Asked what the future holds, Kurt Slep, CEO of Sound Choice, responded, “We hope to set a precedent in Phoenix.  We have already finished investigations in several other markets and those actions will follow in time.”

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