Conway's La Huerta Mexican Restaurant Ordered To Pay BMI $37K Over Music Licensing

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Jul. 8, 2013 12:00 am  

A Conway restaurant owner learned last month that playing music from a licensed artist without paying royalties can be costly.

Broadcast Music Inc. of New York received a default judgment of $30,000 plus another $7,000 for attorney fees against La Huerta Mexican Restaurant and its owner, Julio Nunez, for playing 12 copyrighted songs without paying for them, according to court records on a lawsuit filed last year in federal court in Little Rock.

BMI had the right to the songs that La Huerta played without permission in 2011, said the complaint, which was filed by BMI’s attorney, Amy Lee Stewart of the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock.

Among the songs played were “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” “All I Have to Do Is Dream,” “Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About” and “When Did You Stop Loving Me?”

Nunez was served with the lawsuit, but didn’t bother to file an answer, which gave BMI an easy legal victory. But BMI would have preferred not to go into the court system at all, according to Leah Luddine, a BMI spokeswoman. Instead, BMI would rather work directly with business owners and get them licensed.

“We act as the facilitator between the music users and the music creators,” Luddine said in an email to Arkansas Business. “The legal responsibilities to license music are covered under the U.S. Copyright Act. The purpose behind copyright protection is to enable songwriters to earn a living from their music so that they can continue to create it.”

Luddine said BMI tried to contact officials at La Huerta “dozens of times over an extended period” but didn’t have any luck. Nunez didn’t immediately return a call to Arkansas Business.

Most business owners who play music in public have received a license from BMI, which could be less than $30 a month, Luddine said.

It doesn’t matter what industry the company is in, “if you play music publicly that is not your own, you will need to license the music,” she said.

Without a license, the music user would have to contact each BMI songwriter, composer and publisher for the permission to play their music in public, Luddine said.

“This is why we encourage business owners to follow the copyright law and obtain a BMI license,” she said.



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